The Nobel Peace Prizes at their best set before us an array of great human spirits. The nine women Prizewinners clearly belong in this list. They come from a variety of backgrounds and represent a variety of forms of peace making.

The earliest of these heroines of peace was the Austrian baroness who inspired the Prize, while the most recent was the Indian from Guatemala who rose to leadership overcoming poverty and oppression. They include the woman regarded as the greatest of her generation in the United States; the scholar and reformer who was the acknowledged intellectual leader of the American peace movement; two Northern Irish advocates of nonviolence who made a dramatic effort to resolve the longstanding violent conflict in their land; a saintly missionary working in the slums of Calcutta; a Swedish social reformer who became a cabinet minister and ambassador; and a Burmese intellectual who led the opposition to a brutal military dictatorship.

They were not only of different nationalities and different classes, but of different faiths; among them were Catholics and freethinkers, a Buddhist and a Quaker. They worked against war in peace societies and in political life, as humanitarians and defenders of human rights. This small group of nine Laureates represents the diverse paths to peace which the Norwegian Nobel committees have recognized over the years. But they are most interesting in themselves; each has a fascinating story to tell.

The purpose of this paper is to consider the lives and peace efforts of these nine laureates, picturing them as the members of the Nobel Committee described them in presenting them with their prizes at the award ceremonies. Thereafter we shall reflect on what, if anything they had in common. In the Appendix are some notes on the contributions of other women, the wives and mothers of the men who won the Prize. But first a few words about Alfred Nobel’s intentions regarding women and the Prize and how the Norwegian committee have followed his wishes in this respect.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s