The Nobel Peace Prize is recognized as one of the most prestigious global awards. Each year the Norwegian Nobel Committee selects a winner. The award is given to both individuals and organizations who receive substantial monies to continue their work.
In recent years the Nobel Prize committee recognized that in order to create a peaceful society certain conditions must prevail. One is a healthy environment made sustainable by a commitment to its preservation. This is the criteria with which they awarded their 2004 prize to Kenyan Wangari Maathia. The committee also has stretched the traditional bounds of the peace prize to include various advocacy issues. In 2003 it awarded Shirin Ebadi of Iran in acknowledgement of her courage in her struggles for human rights and democracy in Iran.
Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914) in 1905 became the first female recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her father was a count in the Austrian military. She was well educated and considered an intellectual. Married to Arthur von Suttner against the wishes of his parents, she and her husband became journalists who wrote about the increasing ethnic conflicts in Russia and Central Europe. In 1889 she published a book, Lay Down Your Arms, which detailed the effects of war, the growing militarism of Europe, and the problem of extreme nationalism. In spite of being controversial, the book became extremely popular; it was translated into 12 languages and reprinted many times. von Suttner came to the decision that an international tribunal was needed to arbitrate conflicts which might lead to war. She became a popular speaker, and founded the Austrian Peace Society.
Lay Down Your Arms influenced Alfred Nobel too, who on his death left his entire fortune to create the foundation which annually honors men and women who made outstanding contributions toward peace. Bertha, who had first met Alfred in 1876 when his invention of dynamite had brought him his great wealth, is credited with convincing him to offer the prize for peace. It seems clear that he wished Bertha to become the prizes first female recipient, which occurred in 1905.
Bertha von Suttner died while organizing the international peace congress that was to be held in Vienna in August, 1914. The year 2005 is the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Peace Prize award to Bertha von Suttner. In Europe, various events are planned to celebrate it.
Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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Women in World History Curriculum