The Women Who Won the Nobel Peace Prize

Women of Peace

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the most prestigious awards recognizing human rights activism, given to organizations and world leaders promoting peace. Between 1901 and 2017, the award had been granted 98 times to 104 individuals and 27 organizations, but only 16 recipients were women. Overall, out of the 589 granted awards, 50 women won a Nobel Prize in any category, and they still represent a small minority in the pool of recipients.

This year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to yet another woman, Nadia Murad of Iraq, an activist against sexual violence of armed conflicts and a victim of the Islamic State army. Here are the women who have received a Nobel Peace Prize, and the countries they hail from.

Baroness Bertha Sophie Felicita von Suttner (1905)

Born in Prague, under the Austrian Empire, Baroness Bertha Sophie Felicita von Suttner is credited with having persuaded her friend Alfred Nobel to include a peace prize on his list of awards. She became the first woman to receive the honor, which she won for the strong anti-military messages in her book “Lay Down Your Arms.” She established the Austrian Peace Society and was considered a leader in international peace activism. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905.

Jane Addams (1931)

Jane Addams was born and brought up in the U.S. and warned against imposing strict sanctions on Germany at the end of World War I, as the country could one day retaliate. An activist and social worker, Addams founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, a non-governmental organization meant to bring women together and spark conversations about war and peace initiatives. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Emily Greene Balch (1946)

An American socialist studying the lives and rights of vulnerable populations including minorities, immigrants, women and workers, Emily Greene Balch won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for her efforts to end armed conflicts. Together with Nobel laureate Jane Addams, Balch worked on persuading neutral governments to intervene and help end World War II, while criticizing the West for not standing up to fascism and the Nazi policies from the very beginning.

Mairead Corrigan (1976)

Born in Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Mairead Corrigan shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 with Betty Williams for founding the Northern Ireland Peace Movement to end the religious fight between Catholics and Protestants in the country. Corrigan is a human-rights activist whose work includes helping establish clubs for disabled children and teenagers, as well as organizing summer camps in European countries so that young Catholics and Protestants could start a dialogue in a friendly setting.

Betty Williams (1976)

Betty Williams is a peace activist from Northern Ireland; she shared the Nobel Prize with Mairead Corrigan in 1976 for founding the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. Williams witnessed the shooting of Corrigan’s three nephews in Belfast and began working with her to establish peace between the Catholics and the Protestants. She had been a member in various anti-violence campaigns and believed peace was mainly an outcome achieved by people working together, not something imposed on them by authorities.

Mother Teresa (1979)

Born in the Ottoman Empire, Mother Teresa is best known for her work with the poor in India. She became a Catholic nun at the age of 12 and, after getting her education, moved to India where she served as a teacher and founded the Missionaries of Charity. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work on building nursing homes, hospices and shelters for orphans in Kolkata, and her work seeking international aid for those in need around the world.

Alva Myrdal (1982)

Alva Myrdal won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 for her work on disarmament and creating nuclear weapons-free areas. Originally from Sweden, she was a politician, human rights activist and diplomat. She led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and served as Sweden’s ambassador to India.

Aung San Suu Kyi (1991)

Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Myanmar and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her work defending democracy and human rights. She co-founded the National League for Democracy, the social-democratic party currently running the country and the political force that led the opposition against the military junta ruling over Myanmar since the 1960s. Although she has spent 15 years under house arrest, she has been actively involved in bringing political change to the country.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum (1992)

Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a human rights activist from Guatemala who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work for social justice, reconciling differences between ethnic groups in her home country, and fighting for the rights of indigenous people. While still in her teens, she was involved in social reforms with the help of the Catholic Church and her name became synonymous with the fight for human rights in Latin America. that began in the 1960s and ended in mid 1990s.

Jody Williams (1997)

Jody Williams is a civil rights and peace activist known for her efforts in defending human rights and her campaign against landmines. Originally from the Unites States, she studied in El Salvador in the 1980s. She founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and her work prompted the Ottawa Convention to ban the use, production, sale, and stocking of landmines used against humans, earning her a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

Shirin Ebadi (2003)

Shirin Ebadi is a lawyer and Iran‘s first female judge. In 2003, she won the Nobel Peace Prize — the first of only five Muslims to do so — for her work defending human rights, and fighting for women, children and those imprisoned for political reasons in her native country.

Wangari Maathai (2004)

Wangari Maathai is the first Africanwoman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Born and raised in Kenya, Maathai was an environmental activist and also the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree. She taught veterinary anatomy, fought for democratic rights in Kenya and founded the Green Belt Movement, a nongovernmental organization focusing on environmental conservation and developing communities. Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Tawakkol Karman (2011)

Tawakkol Karman is a journalist and political scientist born and raised in Yemen. She Karman has been arrested several times for leading demonstrations against the government and criticizing them for restricting civil liberties. She is the founder of Women Journalists Without Chains, a group that advances freedom of expression. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting the “non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” Karman shared her prize with two other women’s rights activists, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia.

Leymah Gbowee (2011)

Leymah Gbowee is a social worker from Liberia who specialized in helping those suffering from trauma during the civil war. She was the leader of the women’s peace movement that helped end the civil war in Liberia in 2002, and has been credited for inviting women of all ethnic backgrounds and religions to join the peace demonstrations in Monrovia. She shared the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2011)

Born in Monrovia, Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first female elected president on the African continent. She ran Liberia for 12 years and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her dedication to women’s rights and protection during Liberia’s civil war. Sirleaf is credited with promoting peace, reconciliation and social-economic progress. She shared the Nobel Peace Prize with two other women, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and Tawakkol Karman from Yemen.

Malala Yousafzai (2014)

Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever have received a Nobel Prize. She was born in Pakistan and has been an activist for girls’ rights to education since her childhood. In 2012, she was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for advocating for education for girls; she survived and, one year later, gave a speech in front of the United Nations General Assembly. In 2014, she wrote a best-selling book, “I am Malala.”

Nadia Murad (2018)

Born in northern Iraq, Nadia Murad is an activist campaigning against the practice of sexual violence as a weapon of war. A survivor of sexual violence by the Islamic State, at age 25 she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for sharing her story and the stories of other Yazidi women who were raped and abused during the militant group’s campaign of ethnic cleansing in Iraq. In 2016, she was named the U.N.’s goodwill ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of women in that country who have been victimized by rape.

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