There's so much missing from our collective past because
women's contributions have been given little recognition in our history books --
and Women's Media Center wants to make sure future histories actually tell the
whole story. In celebration of Women's History Month, we profiled 30
incredible women making history today -- some are alumnae of our Progressive
Women's Voices media and leadership training program, and others are heroines we
have met along the way.
Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support WMC Exclusives - and we still need to raise $3,907. Every dollar you give goes directly to pay women writers to report the untold stories and missing perspectives of women. Exclusives are essential to WMC's mission of amplifying women's voices -- they ensure a diverse group of women writers are engaged and telling our history as it happens. Check out today's Exclusive by Sharon Ufberg: A Vibrant Encounter Space Online: The International Museum of Women. Will you contribute $30?
Donate here: https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/937/t/10343/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=6015
When Women's History Month debuted in 1980, fewer than 3% of textbook content mentioned the historical contributions of women. Clearly we've come a long way, but today still, Women's Studies courses are the first to disappear as schools respond to tight budgets, women are writing less than 25% of op-ed pieces, and we currently hold only 3% of decision-making positions in the media. That's why 365 days a year, the WMC team works tirelessly to ensure that our history is inclusive and the contributions of women across all forms of media are recognized.
Help us raise $3,907 more! Every dollar helps us amplify women's voices, change the conversation, and change history.
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Jehmu & the WMC team
PS: Scroll down to check out the last 5 days of 30 Women Making History.
EMILY, Eleanor, Annie: http://womensmediacenter.com/blog/2010/03/emily-eleanor-annie-women-making-history/
Dori Marnard: http://womensmediacenter.com/blog/2010/03/dori-maynard-a-woman-making-history/
Emily May: http://womensmediacenter.com/blog/2010/03/emily-may-a-woman-making-history/
Janus Adams: http://womensmediacenter.com/blog/2010/03/janus-adams-a-woman-making-history/
Michele Wucker: http://womensmediacenter.com/blog/2010/03/michele-wucker-a-woman-making-history/
"2010 Theme: Writing Women Back Into History," National Women's History Project, 2010, http://www.nwhp.org/whm/index.php
"The Glass Ceiling Persists: The 3rd Annual APPC Report on Women Leaders in Communication Companies," The Annenberg Public Policy Center, 2003, http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/Downloads/Information_And_Society/20031222_Glass_Ceiling/20031222_glass-ceiling_report.pdf
"Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor.
It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel."
Bella S. Abzug, New Yorker, feminist, antiwar activist, politician and lawyer, died yesterday at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan. She was 77.
She died of complications following heart surgery, said Harold Holzer, who was her spokesman when she served in Congress. She had been hospitalized for weeks, and had been in poor health for several years, he said.
Ms. Abzug represented the West Side of Manhattan for three Congressional terms in the 1970's. She brought with her a belligerent, exuberant politics that made her a national character. Often called just Bella, she was recognizable everywhere by her big hats and a voice that Norman Mailer said ''could boil the fat off a taxicab driver's neck.''
She opposed the Vietnam War, championed what was then called women's liberation and was one of the first to call for the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon. Long after it ceased to be fashionable, she called her politics radical. During her last campaign, for Congress in 1986, she told The New York Times, ''I am not a centrist.''
Bella Abzug was a founding feminist, and an enduring one. In the movement's giddy, sloganeering early days, Ms. Abzug was, like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, an icon, the hat bobbing before the cameras at marches and rallies.
After leaving the House in January 1977, she worked for women's rights for two more decades. She founded an international women's group that worked on environmental issues. And she was a leader of a conference of nongovernmental organizations that paralleled the United Nations' fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.
Even then, she continued to rankle. Former President George Bush, on a private visit to China that coincided with the Beijing conference, said to a meeting of food production executives: ''I feel somewhat sorry for the Chinese, having Bella Abzug running around. Bella Abzug is one who has always represented the extremes of the women's movement.''
When told of Mr. Bush's remark, Ms. Abzug, 75 and in a wheelchair, retorted: ''He was addressing a fertilizer group? That's appropriate.''
Her forceful personality and direct manner made her a lightning rod for criticism from those who opposed the idea of holding a women's conference. After Bob Dole, then the Senate majority leader, said he could not imagine why anyone ''would want to attend a conference co-chaired by Bella Abzug,'' she responded that she was not running the meeting but simply participating with more than 30,000 other women over how best to achieve equal rights.
But much of what Ms. Abzug agitated for -- abortion rights, day care, laws against employment discrimination -- was by that time mainstream political fare.
In Congress, ''she was first on almost everything, on everything that ever mattered,'' said Esther Newberg, Ms. Abzug's first administrative assistant and one of many staff members who quit but remained devoted. ''She was first to call for Richard Nixon's impeachment, first to call for an end to the war.''
Ms. Abzug made enemies easily -- ''Sometimes the hat and the mouth took over,'' Ms. Newberg said -- but Ms. Abzug saw that as a consequence of a refusal to compromise, as well as a matter of sport. Of her time in the House, Ms. Abzug wrote in a journal that was published in 1972 as ''Bella,'' ''I spend all day figuring out how to beat the machine and knock the crap out of the political power structure.''
She worked relentlessly at organizing and coalition-building. A founder of Women Strike for Peace and the National Women's Political Caucus, she spent a lifetime prodding for change, with a lawyer's enthusiasm for political channels, through organizations from the P.T.A. to the United Nations.
She made friends easily, too. ''She's fierce and intense and funny,'' said her longtime friend Gloria Steinem. ''She takes everyone seriously. When she argues with you fiercely, it's because she takes you seriously. And she's willing to change her mind. That's so rare.''Her First Speech, In a Subway Station
Bella Savitzky Abzug was born on July 24, 1920 in the Bronx, the second daughter of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Her father, Emanuel Savitzky, whom Ms. Abzug later described as ''this humanist butcher,'' ran (and named) the Live and Let Live Meat Market on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan.
She said she knew from the age of 11 that she wanted to be a lawyer, and not long afterward gave her first public speech, in a subway station, while collecting for a Zionist youth organization. She went from Hunter College, where she was student body president, to Columbia University Law School, where she was an editor of The Law Review, to a practice representing union workers.
Ms. Abzug traced the wearing of her trademark wide-brimmed hats to those days. She once recalled: ''When I was a young lawyer, I would go to people's offices and they would always say: 'Sit here. We'll wait for the lawyer.' Working women wore hats. It was the only way they would take you seriously.
''After a while, I started liking them. When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of it. So I was watching. Did they want me to wear it or not? They didn't want me to wear it, so I did.''
All the while, she was a leftist and an agitator. Later, exasperated with her Congressional aides, she wrote: ''I just don't understand young people today, quite frankly. Our struggle was political, ideological and economic, and we felt we couldn't make something of ourselves unless we bettered society. We saw the two together.''
In the 1950's, Ms. Abzug's law practice turned to other cases identified with the left. One client was Willie McGee, a black Mississippian convicted of raping a white woman and sentenced to death. Ms. Abzug, who was pregnant at the time, argued the case in Mississippi while white supremacist groups threatened her. Though the Supreme Court stayed the execution twice, Mr. McGee was eventually executed.
She also represented people accused of Communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy's Congressional committee and its counterpart in Albany.
In the 1960's, Ms. Abzug became an antiwar activist. A founder of Women Strike for Peace, she became its chief lobbyist, protesting nuclear testing and, later, the Vietnam War. She organized insurgent Democrats into other groups, too, becoming a leader of the movement against President Lyndon B. Johnson and a prominent figure in the 1968 Presidential campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy.
During those years, Ms. Abzug started navigating New York City politics. She and her husband, Martin, moved from Mount Vernon, the Westchester suburb where they had raised their two daughters, to a town house at 37 Bank Street in Greenwich Village. In 1970, Ms. Abzug ran for Congress.
The 19th Congressional District, which snaked from lower Manhattan to the West 80's, had four registered Democrats to every Republican and had been represented in Congress for seven terms by Leonard Farbstein, a solid but rather somnolent liberal. Ms. Abzug won the Democratic primary with 54 percent of the vote.Campaign Became A Women's Crusade
At this point, Bella Abzug became national news, a flash of local color in a political year. She seemed to be everywhere, clapping backs and jabbing biceps. Her campaign headquarters next to the Lion's Head, a writers' and journalists' bar in Greenwich Village, was also a day-care center for her legions of female volunteers. The women's crusade she led brought considerable, if sometimes derisive, attention.
Though she eventually took 55 percent of the vote, she had genuine Republican opposition, unusual in an era when New York's main political action consisted of various Democratic factions knifing one another. The Republican-Liberal candidate was Barry Farber, a well-known radio talk show host. Mr. Farber drew many Democrats who resented Mr. Farbstein's humiliation or were simply put off by Ms. Abzug's style.
To her chagrin, Mr. Farber accused Ms. Abzug, who advocated direct negotiations between Israelis and Arabs, of flagging in her support of Israel. For years after that, she made a point of stating her Jewish credentials, dating to childhood: her family was religious and she went regularly to synagogue (though she was bothered that women were relegated to the back rows of the balcony), studied Hebrew and was enrolled for a time at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
When Ms. Abzug went to Washington, she sought an appointment to the Armed Services Committee. She wanted a resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and she vowed to take on the military-industrial complex. She wanted to end the draft. She wanted national health insurance, money for day-care centers and housing, and more money for New York City, all to be paid for with billions siphoned from the Pentagon's budget.
She got little of this, but during the next six years ''she was indefatigable,'' Ms. Newberg recalled. ''She yelled a lot,only because she couldn't get everything done.'' And if she couldn't, Ms. Newberg added, it was partly because ''her agenda was too pure for her moment in time.''
Ms. Abzug did become expert at parliamentary rules, worked them skillfully and was famously well prepared for every vote, hearing and committee spat. The ''sunshine law'' requiring governing bodies to meet publicly came out of a subcommittee she headed. She coaxed funds for New York from the Public Works Committee. She was a co-sponsor of the women's equal rights amendment. ''She was one of the most exciting, enlightened legislators that ever served in the Congress,'' said Representative Charles B. Rangel of Manhattan, with whom Ms. Abzug sometimes collaborated and sometimes sparred.
From her first day on Capitol Hill -- the day she dismayed her colleagues by introducing her Vietnam resolution -- Ms. Abzug derided the Congressional club, the seniority system, the log-rolling and back-scratching. She did not spare fellow Democrats; when she spoke of liberals, it was usually dismissively. She badgered the House leadership over committee appointments and votes.
She badgered the President, too. Invited to a reception at Richard Nixon's White House, she accepted (while writing in her journal, ''Who wants to listen to his pious idiocies?''), then announced to Nixon in the receiving line that her constituents demanded a withdrawal from Vietnam.
For all of her railing against Democrats who went along to get along, Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill named her one of his dozen assistant whips, and by most accounts she worked well with some of the crustiest fixtures in the House.
Still, a 1972 report by Ralph Nader estimated that Ms. Abzug's sponsorship of a measure often cost it 20 to 30 votes. Her reputation as an irritant came from all quarters. Jimmy Breslin wrote of a campaign worker who repaired to the Lion's Head one night, holding his side and swearing never to work for Ms. Abzug again. ''She punched me,'' he explained, in a quarrel over scheduling. The next day, Mr. Breslin reported, Ms. Abzug called the aide. ''Michael, I called to apologize,'' she said. ''How's your kidney?''
Mr. Breslin also recounted the Congresswoman's introduction to Sol Linowitz, the former chairman of the Xerox Corporation and a Democratic Party luminary: ''Are you the man that used to be head of the Xerox?'' Ms. Abzug asked. ''That's right,'' Mr. Linowitz replied. ''I'm glad to meet a big shot,'' Ms. Abzug said. ''I'm in hock $35,000 on my campaign.''
Ms. Abzug acknowledged loneliness in her years in Congress. ''Outside of Martin and the kids, I don't feel very related to most people at this point,'' she wrote in 1971. ''I feel detached in social situations. I'm always thinking about other things, about Congress, about the issues, about the political coalition I'm trying to organize. It never leaves me. I even have trouble relating to some of my closest friends, though God knows I still love them, even if they don't know it.''
Always, she returned to Manhattan to spend weekends with her husband.
She had married Martin Abzug in 1944. The two New Yorkers met on a bus in Miami, when both were on the way to a Yehudi Menuhin concert. Mr. Abzug, a stockbroker and an author of two published novels, had next to no interest in politics. In an interview in 1970, he murmured, while his wife was out of the room, ''The political bug is a curious bug.'' But he was, she said, her best friend and supporter, and ''one of the few unneurotic people left in society.''Corrosive Ambition Hampers a Career
Ms. Abzug's own ambition was too corrosive for many people, even -- or, perhaps, especially -- for her fellow New York Democrats. When the State Legislature sliced up her district in 1972, they urged her to challenge one of the two conservative incumbent Democrats in adjoining districts, Representative John J. Rooney or Representative John M. Murphy. Instead, she opposed a liberal Democrat, William Fitts Ryan, in the 20th District, encompassing the Upper West Side and the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
The primary was bitter and, eventually, politically expensive to Ms. Abzug. Bill Ryan was one of the earliest heroes of the city's insurgent Democrats, an early opponent of the Vietnam War and a genuinely well-liked man who, as many of his constituents knew, was waging a gallant fight against cancer.
Mr. Ryan defeated Ms. Abzug in the Democratic primary but died before the general election. The Democratic County Committee appointed Ms. Abzug as the candidate to replace him, but she was challenged by Mr. Ryan's widow, Priscilla, who ran on the Liberal line. Ms. Abzug won in November, but she had made dedicated enemies who believed she was an overly aggressive politician who would not hesitate to attack anyone who got in her way. Ten years later, she was denied a seat in the state's delegation to the national party's biannual conference because New York leaders considered her disruptive.
In 1976, she gave up her House seat to run for the Senate. She lost in the primary, to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, by a margin of only 1 percent. Two more campaigns quickly followed. (In a 1978 interview, she said: ''I'm a politician. I run for office. That's my profession.'') She lost to Edward I. Koch in a crowded mayoral primary in 1977. The next year, running for the House again, she lost, again by just 1 percent, to a little-known Republican, S. William Green.
She was appointed co-chairwoman of President Jimmy Carter's National Advisory Committee on Women, and then, after disagreeing with him over economic policy, was dismissed. The majority of the committee members resigned in protest. Ms. Abzug, unapologetic, said with a shrug, ''I've got to find myself another big, nonpaying job.''
Her next and last campaign was in 1986, this time for a House seat in Westchester County. She won the primary in a burst of the old, ebullient campaigning style, but lost in November to Joseph J. DioGuardi, the Republican incumbent.
It was during that campaign that Martin Abzug died. Her friends said Ms. Abzug never recovered. Nine years later, she said, , ''I haven't been entirely the same since.''
There was one more bid for office, for her old House seat on the Upper West Side, when she announced her candidacy to replace Representative Ted Weiss on his death just before the 1992 election. But she was quickly eliminated from the field at the party convention.
During the next decade, Ms. Abzug suffered from ill health, including breast cancer, but continued to practice law and work for women's groups. She wrote a book, ''Gender Gap,'' with her old friend Mim Kelber. She started a lobbying group called Women U.S.A. and founded the Women's Environment and Development Organization, a group that works with international agencies.
In addition to her daughters, Eve and Liz, Ms. Abzug is survived by her sister, Helene Alexander of Great Neck, N.Y.
''I've been described as a tough and noisy woman, a prizefighter, a man hater, you name it,'' Ms. Abzug said of herself in ''Bella.'' ''They call me Battling Bella, Mother Courage and a Jewish mother with more complaints than Portnoy.''
''There are those who say I'm impatient, impetuous, uppity, rude, profane, brash and overbearing. Whether I'm any of these things or all of them, you can decide for yourself. But whatever I am -- and this ought to be made very clear at the outset -- I am a very serious woman.''
By: Jenney Cheever, Staff Writer
There have been many famous women in politics throughout America's history, although the controbutions of some of them have only come to light in recent years. With politics having traditionally been a man’s game, it was not easy for some of these women to make their mark in the history books, particularly during the years where women did not enjoy the same rights at men. Nevertheless, great women persevered and mad major contributions to the political world. Here are a few of the women who paved the way for women in leadership.
The wife of the second president and mother to the sixth, Abigail Adams was not outwardly involved in politics; however, John Adams frequently consulted his wife on important issues. Much of the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams still exists, and has given us insight into the intellectual conversations about political and government issues between the couple. Abigail Adams was also an advocate for women of her time, reminding her husband and his colleagues to “Remember the ladies.”
Susan B. Anthony
While Susan B. Anthony is known mostly for her efforts in the suffragist movement, she was a life-long activist, fighting tirelessly for equal rights for all. She was involved in the abolition movement, education reform, labor rights and rights for women. In 1872 Anthony became the first women to vote in a presidential election. She was arrested and tried for voting illegally, but refused to pay the fine. She continued to actively campaign for fair and equal treatment until her death in 1906.
Victoria Woodhull was certainly a woman ahead of her time. Living during an era when women were not considered citizens and were not allowed to vote, Woodhull attempted to run for the office of President of the United States in 1872 as a candidate of the short-lived Equal Rights Party. Unfortunately, her bid for the presidency was not legal, due to the laws of the time. Woodhull continued to fight for women’s rights, labor reforms and many other controversial causes of the day.
Shirley Chisholm began her political career by winning a seat in the New York State Legislature in 1964. In 1968 the Democrat from New York became the first African-American woman ever to be elected to the House of Representatives. In 1972 Congresswoman Chisholm became the first African-American from a major political party to run for president. In 1976 Chisholm was the first African-American to deliver the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Hilary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton had a distinguished career in law before beginning a career in politics with her husband, Bill Clinton, during his time as governor of Arkansas and President of the United States. She has continued to achieve much in the world of politics in her own right. In 2000, she became the first female senator from New York. She ran for the office of President in 2008, narrowly losing the democratic nomination to Barack Obama. She currently serves at Obama’s Secretary of State.
HEADS OF STATE
CURRENTLY IN OFFICE
Including leaders of Self-governing External Territories
1952- Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Head of the Commonwealth, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, Paramount Chief of Fiji and Queen of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis
Until 1953 her title was Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Overseas Dominions. She is head if state in 15 countries apart from Great Britain and as Head of the Commonwealth she is the front person of the organization of many other former British colonies and territories. Her reign takes place during a period of great social change, she has carried out her political duties as Head of State, the ceremonial responsibilities of the Sovereign and an unprecedented programme of visits in the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and overseas. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is the mother of three sons and a daughter. Married to Phillip Mountbatten, former Prince of Greece. (b. 1926-).
1972- Queen Margrethe 2 of Denmark, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Head of the Evangelican-Lutheral Church
The Rigsfælleskab - or
Commonwealth of the Realm - includes the external territories
Faero Islands and Greenland. She has
in translation work and made her mark artistically in several
She has made a point of knowing and reaching out to all parts
realm, and the Faeroe Islands and Greenland are favourite
destinations. The Queen has also succeeded in giving her
New Year Message a strongly personal touch, which has helped
consolidate her popularity.
1980-Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard is also Princess van Oranje-Nassau, Princess van Lippe-Biesterfeld etc, etc, etc. The Kingdom of The Netherlands includes the external territories of Aruba and The Nederlandse Antillen. She succeeded upon the abdication of her mother, Queen Juliana, and she closely follows affairs of government and maintains regular contact with ministers, state secretaries, the vice-President of the Council of State, the Queen's Commissioners in the provinces, burgomasters, and Dutch ambassadors etc. She meets the Prime Minister every Monday. Much of her work consists of studying and signing State documents. She regularly receives members of parliament, as well as other authorities on social issues. Married to Prince Claus of the Netherlands, Jonkheer von Amfeld (1926-2002), and mother of 3 sons. (b. 1938-).
1997- President Mary McAleese, Ireland
She was Professor of Law and 1993-97 Pro-chancellor of University of Belfast. The eldest of nine children, she grew up in Northern Ireland and her family was one of many adversely affected by the conflict. She is an experienced broadcaster, having worked as a current affairs journalist and presenter in radio and television with Radio Telefís Éireann. She has a longstanding interest in many issues concerned with justice, equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation but never engaged in party politics. During the 1997-elections 5 candidates were female and there was only one token male candidates finishing a distant last. (b. 1951-).
|1997- Governor-General Hon. Dr. Dame C. Pearlette Louisy, St. Lucia|
A former civil servant, she a non-political appointee. (b. 1946-)
2000- President Tarja Halonen, Finland
Social Democrat member of Parliament 1979-2000, 1984-87 Chairperson of the Social Affairs Committee and Member of the Presidium of the Parliament, 1987-1990 Second Minister of Health and Social Affairs (Health Minister) and 1989-1991 Minister of Nordic Co-operation, 1989-91 Co-leader of Soumen Sosialidemokraattinen Pulolue, The Social Democrats. 1990-1991 Minister of Justice, 1995-2000 Minister of Foreign Affairs. (b. 1943-).
2001- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, The Philippines (20.1-)
As executive GMA is also Head of the Cabinet. 1987-1989 she was Assistant Secretary and 1989-92 Undersecretary of Trade and Industry and Senator 1992-98. Vice-President 1998-2001 and Secretary of Social Development and Welfare 1998-2000 and charged with the leadership of the Cabinet Meetings. In 2001 the parliament sacked President Estrada because of corruption and she was sworn in as his successor. 2002 Secretary of Foreign Affairs, 2003 and 206-07 of Defence. Does not belong to a party but has formed her own block of parliamentarians. (b. 1947-).
2005- Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, Canada
She is daughter of Haitian immigrants who fled the Duvalier regime in 1968, former university literature professor, social activist and veteran CBC broadcaster from Quebec, and non-political. Married to French-born Jean-Daniel Lafond, and mother of Marie-Eden (b. 1999). She is (b. 1957-).
2005- Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany
1990 Deputy Spokesperson of the Government of the DDR, 1990-98 Deputy Chairperson of CDU, 1991-94 Federal Minister Women and Youth and 1994-98 Federal Minister of Environment, Protection of Nature and Reactor Safety, 1993-2000 Chairperson of CDU in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 1998-2000 Federal Secretary General and since 2000 Federal Chairperson of CDU and 2002-05 also Parliamentary Leader. Bundeskanzlerin in a Grand Coalition between CDU/CSU and SPD. Née Kasner and married secondly to Joachim Sauer, no children. (b. 1954-).
2006- President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia
1972-73 and 1977-79 Secretary of State of Finance, 1979-80 Minister of Finance, 1980 President of the National Bank, 1980-85 worked for the World Bank, 1985-86 in house arrest after her return, 1990-92 Leading member of exile-government of Amos Sawyer in United States of America, 1992-97 African Director of the UNDP (United Nations Development Program). From 1997 Leader of the Unity Party. Presidential Candidate in 1997, Candidate for the Chairmanship of the National Transitional Government in 2003 and finally won the presidential elections in November 2005. She is divorced, mother of a number of children, and grandmother. (b. 1938-).
2006- Minister-President Emily de Jongh-Elhage, Nederlandse Antillen (Self-governing Part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands)
Commissioner of Public works and Public Housing of Curaçao 1998-99, Commissioner of Education, Sport and Cultural Affairs 1999-2002, Minister of Education and Culture of the Nederlandse Antillen 2002-03 and Commissioner of Public Enterprises and Public Housing 2004-05 of Curaçao. From 2005 Leader of De Partido Antia Restrukturá (PAR). Also Minister of General Affairs and External Relations.
|2007- President Pratibha Patil, India|
|Deputy Minister 1967-72 and Cabinet Minister 1972-83 and Congress Leader and Leader of the Opposition 1979-80 in Maharastra, Deputy Chairperson of the Union Upper House, the Rajya Sabha 1986-88, Governor of Rajasthan 2004-07. Married to Devisingh Shekhawat, a former Mayor of Amravati. (b. 1934-).|
2007- President Cristina E. Fernández de Kirchner, Argentina
Won the first round of the presidential elections in October 2007 as candidate for Partido Justicalista. She was Member of the Assembly of Santa Cruz 1989-95 and 1. Vice-President of the Assembly in 1990, National Senator 1995-97 and again since 2001, National Deputy 1997-2001. President of the Senate Committee of Contitutional Affairs since 2001. Her husband, Nestor Kirchner was President until 2007.. Mother of 2 children. (b. 1953-).
2007- Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack, Antigua and Barbuda
|A former nurse and magistrate from 1995. (b. 1944-).|
2007- President Borjana Kristo, The Federation of Bosnia (Bosnia-Hercegovina)
|2003-07 Minister of Justice of the Bosniak-Croat Federation an entity in The Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former Vice-President of the Parliament, Spomenka Micic, was elected one of the 2 Vice-Presidents of Federation. (b. 1961-)|
2007- Premier Viveca Eriksson, Åland (Finish External Territory)
Chairperson of the Liberal Parliamentary Group 1999-2001, Member of the Speaker's Conference 1999-2000, Chairperson of the Finance Committee 1999-2001, first Vice-speaker 2000-01 and 2005-07, Speaker 2001-05 and Party Chairperson from 2004. (b. 1956-).
|2008- Governor-General Dr Quentin Bryce, Australia|
|Former lawyer, academic and human rights advocate, Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner, founding chair and Chief Executive Officer of the National Childcare Accreditation Council and Governor of Queensland 2003-08. (b. 1942-)|
2008- Leader of the Government Antonella Mularoni, San Marino
As Secretary of Foreign and Political Affairs she also functions as Leader of the Government even though the Captain Generals are both Heads of State and Government. She was Political Secretary to the Minister of Finance 1986-87, Director of the Office for relations with the associations of San Marino citizens living abroad 1987-90, Deputy Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, 1989-90, Barrister and public notary in the Republic of San Marino 1991-2001, Member of the General Grand Council 1993-2001 and again from 2008, and Judge of the European Court of Human Rights 2001-08. (b. 1961-).
2009- Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh
President of the Awami Leauge from 1981, Opposition Leader 1986-87 and 1991-96 and 2001-06 and Prime Minister 1996-2001. Also in charge of a number of other portfolio's including that of Defence during both of her tenures as chief of Government. (b. 1947-).
|2009- Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland|
|Johanna Sigurdardsottir was Deputy Chairperson of the Social Democrats 1984-93, Chairperson 1994-99 of the National Revival Party until she rejoined the Social Democrats, becoming it's leader in 2009. Vice-President of the Lower Chamber 1979 and 1983-84 and Vice-Chairperson of the the Alþing 2003-07, Minister of Social Affairs And Health 1987-91 and Minister of Social Affairs 1991-94 and 2007-09. First married to Þorvaldur Steinar Jóhannesson with whom she has got 2 sons and since 2002 she lives in a civil partnership with the author Jónína Leósdóttir, who is mother of 1 son. (b. 1942-).|
|2009- Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, Croatia|
Vice-President of the Sabor 1995-2000 and Deputy Chairperson of HDZ 1995-97. Minister of War Weterans from 2003, Minister for Family and Inter-Generation Solidarity 2003-08 and responsible for Foreign Policy and Human Rights. Presidential Candidate 2005. (b. 1953-).
|2009- President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Lithuania|
|1994-1995 Extraordinary Envoy and Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Mission to the EU and Deputy Head Negotiator for the Europe Agreement with EU, 1996-1999 Plenipotentiary Minister at the Embassy in USA, 1999-2000 Vice-Minister of Finance and 2000-01 Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Head of the EU Accession negotiations, 2001-04 Minister of Finance and 2004 EU-Commissioner of Financial Programming and Budget 2004-09. Won 69% of the votes in the presidential elections. Unmarried and no children. (b. 1956-).|
2010- President of the Confederation Doris Leuthard, Switzerland
|Member of the Assembly in Aargau 1997-2000, Vice-President of Christian Democratic Party, CVP 2001-04, President of CVP Schweiz 2004-06 and Federal Councillor of Econo|
By Irwin Abrams
22 September 1997
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.
The story has often been told of how Nobel had long been interested in peace but how it was his friend the peace activist Baroness Bertha von Suttner, who drew his attention to the international movement against war which was becoming organized in the 1890s and secured his financial support for her peace activities.
In January 1893 he wrote her that he planned to set up a prize to be awarded "to him or her who would have brought about the greatest step toward advancing the pacification of Europe." In the will he drafted a few months later Nobel included a generous bequest for Baroness von Suttner's Austrian Peace Society and provided for prizes to be awarded every three years for intellectual and scientific achievements. These included efforts to promote the establishment of a European tribunal and were to be granted to the most deserving, whether "a Swede or a foreigner, a man or a woman."
In the final draft of his will, Nobel omitted the last clause, as well as the bequest for the Austrian Peace Society, but he set up a prize for peace as one of his five prizes, and he clearly expected the Baroness to receive it. Four awards were made, however, before she finally received the prize in 1905.
In 1901 and 1902 she was not even on the Committee's short list. In 1903 the Committee put her on the short list, but despite the support of most of the other peace leaders, who called her their "commander-in-chief," she was again passed over. In 1904 she lost out to the Institute of International Law, which added insult to injury, since when Nobel's will was being implemented, the Baroness, with her special knowledge of her friend's intentions, had strongly protested to the executors that Nobel had wanted the Prize to go only to individuals.
In a speech earlier that year Nobel Committee Chairman Jörgen Lövland, in referring to the awards to the veterans of the peace movement, had spoken of "the men who had done this work." Small wonder that the Baroness just about gave up hope and was much surprised when the gold ring finally came around to her in 1905. This was due to the special effort of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, the great writer, who was a member of the committee.
When the Baroness came to deliver her Nobel lecture in the spring of 1906, Chairman Lövland, now foreign minister, spoke at the banquet about the great influence of women in history and how they could change the ideas of war and give men higher aims. It was however, twenty-six years later before the second woman, Jane Addams, was honored with the Prize.
Addams had first been nominated in 1916 for her efforts to bring the First World War to an end and repeatedly thereafter. In 1923 the Committee's adviser recommended her in his report, and she had a distinguished list of supporters, including Woodrow Wilson, John Dewey, Felix Frankfurter, Robert LaFollette and Sidney Webb, but no Prize was awarded for that year. Four more times she was on the short list before she shared the divided Prize of 1931 with Nicholas Murray Butler.
In the presentation speech, made in her absence, Professor Halvdan Koht said, "In honoring Jane Addams, we also render homage to the work which women can do for peace and human brotherhood." Apparently that was enough homage for the next fifteen years until in 1946 Emily Green Balch shared the Prize with John Mott of the YMCA. This time it took years for the next women laureates, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, even though the committee had had its first woman member since 1948.
During the thirty years Mrs. Aase Lionaes served on the Committee, chairing it the last ten, the Williams-Corrigan award was the only one to women. Since then the committee has done better, honoring Mother Teresa in 1979, Alva Myrdal in 1982, Aung Sang Suu Kyi in 1991, and Rigoberta Menchú Tum in 1992.
In the first 45 years of the Prizes, only three went to women, and of the 96 awards since 1901, only nine women have been Prizewinners. The committee's archives are open for research up to the Second World War, so we know that a number of women made the short list: The Quaker Priscilla Peckover and Annie Besant, theosophist and social reformer, both from England; from the United States, the peace activist Lucia Ames Mead, Belva Lockwood and Carrie Chapman Call and Elsa Brändström, the Swedish humanitarian.
Others who might have been considered in the period included Dr. Aletta Jacobs of the Netherlands, feminist and activist; the activist Helene Stöcker and the artist Käthe Kollwitz of Germany; Christian socialist Muriel Lester and author Vera Brittain of England; and feminist and writer Oliver Schreiner of South Africa.
In the years following the Second World War, there were several well qualified women candidates who were not named. In 1947 there was a proposal with the Cold War in mind, to share the prize between Eleanor Roosevelt who had done distinguished work on human rights in the United States and Alexandra Kollontai, the Soviet diplomat who had contributed to ending the Soviet-Finnish War. In 1948 Rosika Schwimmer of Hungary, who began her peace campaigning during the First World War, was nominated by a number of European parliamentarians.
While it is true that during all these years it was difficult for a woman to rise to prominence in a male world, the Norwegian Nobel committees were apparently not without prejudice.
It is all the more remarkable that Baroness von Suttner won an international reputation at the beginning of the twentieth century. On a lecture tour of the United States in 1904 she was even received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Not the least of her achievements was her break with the military and aristocratic traditions of her family, first by deciding to earn her living as a governess and later by writing the anti-war novel Die Waffen Nieder ("Lay Down Your Arms"), which brought her into the peace movement. Eloping with the brother of the young ladies she was tutoring and going off with him to the Caucasus to become a writer was also not quite what a well-bred countess was expected to do.
The Baroness was not able to come to Norway when her prize was announced in 1905 on the traditional day, December 10, and there was no presentation speech. The following April, she was introduced by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson who spoke of her "real influence on the growth of the peace movement and how in one of the most militaristic countries of Europe she had continued to cry, "Down with arms." Although laughed at first, her words received a hearing because they were uttered by a person of noble character and because they proclaimed humanity's greatest cause.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee had waited so long to give the Prize to Jane Addams, that she was ill and unable to go to the award ceremony or to come later to present a Nobel lecture. In fact, on the very day of the award, December 10, 1931, she was being admitted to the hospital in Baltimore. ln failing health in her last years, Jane Addams died four years later.
Professor Halvdan Koht gave the presentation speech for Addams and her co-recipient, Nicholas Murray Butler, both of whom were absent. Since Koht was a specialist in American history, he must have known what an unlikely pairing this represented, for during the First World War, Butler had strongly denounced those, like Addams, who had opposed the war.
Koht paid due tribute to the war-time leadership of the International Congress of Women which met at The Hague in 1915 and led to a spectacular effort to end the war. He explained her opposition to the entry of the United States, which may well have kept an earlier Nobel committee from giving her the prize, in this way: "She held fast to the ideal of peace even during the difficult hours when other considerations and interests obscured it from her compatriots and drove them into the conflict."
Toiling for peace during the war and for a true peace afterward, she spoke for the pacifist women of the world. For some reason Koht did not give specific mention of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the organization she helped found and continued to lead. As she asked, the WILPF is on her tombstone along with Hull House, the famous settlement house she established. Fortunately, Koht's omission of WILPF is rectified in the official Nobel Foundation Directory.
Koht went on to say, "Even when her views were at odds with public opinion, she never gave in, and in the end she regained the place of honors she had had before in the hearts of her people."
This was very true. The Chicago City Council for example proclaimed that "she was the greatest woman who ever lived."
Koht spoke of how Goethe, Henrik Ibsen, and Björnson had all seen women as representing "the highest and purest moral standards of society." Koht felt that women have a special role as peacemakers, speaking of "that love, that warm maternal feeling which renders murder and war so hateful to every woman." Addams herself wrote that as a life-giver and a life-nurturer, woman has a special feeling about war and peace. To Koht, "Jane Addams combines all the best feminine qualities which will help us to develop peace on earth."
Without superlatives, perceptive observers, in whose hearts Addams may not have lost a place of honor, have given her the highest praise. William James declared that "she inhabited reality," and to Walter Lippman, "she was not only good, but great."
Emily Greene Balch was a colleague of Jane Addams' in the effort to stop the First World War, her partner in the work of WILPF, and successor as its leader. In 1946 she herself shared a prize with the YMCA leader, John Mott. It came to her as the result of a successful campaign organized at the request of WILPF by its member, Mercedes Randall, who did a remarkable job of bringing Balch's indisputable qualifications before the Nobel committee and securing a large number of prominent supporters.
Committee Chairman Gunnar Jahn gave a far fuller description of Balch's activities than Koht had devoted to Addams. He told of her landmark research on Slav immigrants to the U.S., of her twenty-year teaching of social economics at Wellesley College, which ended when she was dismissed because of her pacifist activities during World War I. In her next career, she was at the center of WILPF's international work, serving for a time as its secretary-general in the Geneva headquarters, and continuing to be a familiar figure at the League of Nations.
Jahn was impressed with her practicality, her effort to improve international political relations by promoting international cooperation in other fields, and by her control of the facts in all her proposals. As an example he referred to her work to secure the withdrawal of the U. S. troops from Haiti in 1926 after eleven years of occupation. She went to Haiti with a delegation, showed great skill in investigating the situation, wrote most of the report, and fought to get the recommendations accepted by the government. Eventually they were all carried out and the troops withdrawn.
Jahn referred to Balch's difficult decision in World War II, as an absolute pacifist who had joined the Quakers, to support the U.S. war effort to vanquish the evil which Hitlerism represented. She could not be unaffected by the fate of her WILPF colleagues and Jewish friends.
Jahn commended Balch for her gradualism, as compared with the Utopianism of less patient peace workers. She continued to develop imaginative proposals for slow international progress through functional cooperation and came to be regarded by American peace activists as their intellectual leader.
|Betty Williams (left) and Mairead Corrigan.|
When Egil Aarvik, vice-chairman of the committee presented the postponed 1976 prize to Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan in 1977, he began his speech with a graphic description of the tragic accident that had occurred the previous August on a street in Belfast in Northern Ireland. A car out of control, its driver an Irish Republican Army (IRA) gunman shot dead fleeing from British soldiers, smashed into a family out for a walk. Two of the children were killed outright, the third was mortally injured, and the mother critically injured.
This senseless killing of innocent children produced a wave of revulsion against the violence which had been sweeping Northern Ireland, with Catholic IRA members using murder and terror to drive out the British, Protestant extremists doing the same in response, and many innocent victims killed as a consequence. The movement was led by Betty Williams, a housewife who came upon the scene after she heard the shot, and Mairead Corrigan, the young aunt of the dead children.
Aarvik told how the two women led marches in which Protestants and Catholics walked together in demonstrations for peace and against violence. That so many people in Northern Ireland had recognized that violence cannot bring social justice, Aarvik declared, gave hope that this could be "the dawn of a new day bringing lasting peace to the sorely tried people of Ulster."
Williams and Corrigan "have shown us what ordinary people can do to promote peace." They had the courage to take the first step. "They did so in the name of humanity and love of their neighbour; someone had to start forgiving. ... Love of one's neighbor is one of the foundation stones of the humanism on which our western civilization is built." It is vitally important that it "should shine forth when hatred and revenge threaten to dominate." Theirs was "a courageous unselfish act that proved an inspiration to thousands, that lit a light in the darkness..."
Unfortunately, that light was dimmed in Northern Ireland until very recently. The Peace People, the organization which emerged from the movement, declined in numbers and influence. Betty Williams emigrated to the United States, where she teaches in a university and has become a stirring lecturer on peace. Mairead Corrigan Maguire has continued to work with the Peace People in Belfast and has also effectively carried her message of nonviolence into other countries. Quakers in the seventeenth century thought of themselves as "God's ordinaries." When ordinary people rise to face challenge, they may go far beyond the ordinary.
Professor John Sanness, who chaired the committee, gave the speech of presentation for the 1979 prize to Mother Teresa. After speaking of the many paths to peace which had been recognized in previous awards, he explained what was special in this one:
Can any political, social, or intellectual feat of engineering, on the international or on the national plane, however effective and rational, however idealistic and principled its protagonists may be, give us anything but a house built on a foundation of sand, unless the spirit of Mother Teresa inspires the builders and takes its dwelling in their building?
Sannes explained that this spirit is rooted in the Christian faith. "She sees Christ in every human being, and this in her eyes makes man sacred... The hallmark of her work has been respect for the individual and the individual's worth and dignity. The loneliest and the most wretched, the dying destitute, the abandoned lepers, have been received by her and her Sisters with warm compassion devoid of condescension, based on this reverence for Christ in Man.
Sannes told how Mother Teresa was born into a Roman Catholic Albanian family living in Skopje, capital of the Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. At the age of twelve she had felt the call to help the poor, and a few years later decided to work in India. At the age of eighteen she joined the Irish order of Loreto and went to teach in their girls' school in Calcutta. After sixteen years she felt a new call, to work in the Calcutta slums. There she started a new order, the Missionaries of Charity, committed to serve the poorest of the poor, which soon spread to many other countries.
Working for people who were not of her race, religion or nationality, Mother Teresa had transcended all barriers. "With her message she is able to reach through to something innate in every human kind--- if for no other purpose than to create a potential, a seed for good." "She promotes peace in the most fundamental manner," Sanness concluded, "by her confirmation of the inviolability of human dignity."
Chairman Egil Aarvik of the committee gave the presentation speech at the award ceremony when the 1982 prize was shared between Alva Myrdal and Alfonso García Robles of Mexico. Aarvik explained that in recognizing two prominent leaders in the disarmament movement the committee wanted at the same time to give that movement a helping hand. Myrdal had headed the Swedish delegation to the U.N. Disarmament Committee from 1962 to1973 and had produced one of the best books on the disarmament race.
Her social commitment went back to the 1930s, "when she played a prominent part in developing the Swedish welfare state. She was a staunch champion of women's liberation and equal rights." Aarvik belonged to a more conservative part of the political spectrum, but he said that on one point all could agree: "her name has become a rallying point for men and women who still cling to the belief that in the last resort mind is bound to triumph over matter." Myrdal was not only a champion of reason but in her writing and in all her activities one of its most brilliant practitioners.
She was the first woman to be appointed head of a department in the United Nations Secretariat, and she had served her country with distinction as a cabinet member and as ambassador to India. So glowing was her record in all her assignments, so many honors had been heaped upon her, that Aarvik seems not to have recognized that, as she pointed out to me, "I had not held my first important position until I was forty years old." The career of her husband, Gunnar Myrdal, had taken priority at times when she had been offered high positions.
Of all the honors she had received, Myrdal regarded the Nobel Peace Prize as "the peak." She confided to me, however, that the Norwegian People's Prize was "dearer to my heart." In 1981 when she had been nominated once again for the Nobel and the committee had given the prize to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, there was such an outcry of criticism in Norway that a popular movement arose which raised sixty thousand dollars to be presented to her as the Norwegian People's Prize. The ceremony at the Oslo city hall in February 1982 had touched her deeply.
Aarvik referred to what Myrdal had said in accepting the first Einstein Peace Prize: "I have, despite all disillusionment, never, never allowed myself to feel like giving up. This is my message today; it is not worthy of a human being to give up." Aarvik emphasized this message, no doubt thinking of the failure of the U.N. disarmament session earlier that year. He said that the committee intended the 1982 peace prize to go to "people who are not satisfied merely to draw attention to alarming trends, but who also devote their energy and their ability to turning the tide." Certainly such a one was Alva Myrdal.
At the ceremony for Aung San Suu Kyi in December 1991, she was still being held in detention by the military dictatorship in Myanmar (Burma) and could only be represented by her two sons, her husband and her picture facing the audience. In his speech presenting the prize to her sons, Professor Francis Sejersted, chairman of the committee, declared, "Her absence fills us with fear and anxiety," but he felt we could also have confidence and hope. He went on to sum up the meaning of her prize:
In the good fight for peace and reconciliation, we are dependent on persons who set examples, persons who can symbolize what we are seeking and mobilize the best in us. Aung San Suu Kyi is just such a person. She unites deep commitment and tenacity with a vision in which the end and the means form a single unit. Its most important elements are: democracy, respect for human rights, reconciliation between groups, non-violence, and personal and collective discipline.
The sources of her inspiration, Sejersted explained, were Mahatma Gandhi, about whom she had learned when her mother was ambassador to India, and her father, Aung San, the leader in Burma's struggle for liberation. She was only two when he was assassinated, but she had made his life a center of her studies. From Gandhi she drew her commitment to nonviolence, from her father the understanding that leadership was a duty and that one can only lead in humility and with the confidence and respect of the people to be led. Both were examples for her of independence and modesty, and Aung San represented what she called "a profound simplicity."
We must add that undergirding her political philosophy in spirit and deed has always been her Buddhist faith, which is also the foundation for her belief in human rights. In championing human rights in her political opposition to the military dictatorship, she needed to be fearless. Sejersted referred to the incident during her election campaigning when she courageously faced a detachment of soldiers, whose officer lined them up in front of her, prepared to fire if she continued to walk down that street, which she did.
Several times in his speech Sejersted cited the collection of her essays, entitled Freedom from Fear, which her husband, Michael Aris, edited and published before the ceremony, so that her voice could be heard beyond the reach of her oppressors. The title essay begins, "It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it." Fearlessness is the best response to governmental violence. In conclusion she writes that "truth, justice and compassion... are often the only bulwarks against ruthless power." These are the teachings of Buddha.
Sejersted told how Suu Kyi spent many years abroad, first when with her diplomat mother in her younger years, then studying at Oxford, working at the United Nations in New York, marrying Aris, a British Tibetan scholar, starting a family when they were in Bhutan, finally ending up in England, after scholarly assignments in Japan and India. Burma was always on her mind and heart, however, especially after the military seized power in 1962. When she married Aris, she told him that one day she must return to Burma when she was needed.
It was to nurse her dying mother that she returned from England, but as the daughter of Aung San, she could not stay aloof when she saw the government brutally repressing a popular movement in opposition. She headed a political party in the elections which the military permitted, but she was so successful that even before election day, she was ordered confined to her home. Nevertheless, her party won by a great majority, after which its other leaders were jailed.
"We ordinary people, I believe," Sejersted declared, "feel that with her courage and her high ideals, Aung San Suu Kyi brings out something of the best in us... The little woman under house arrest stands for a positive hope. Knowing she is there gives us confidence and faith in the power of good."
As of this writing Suu Kyi is still under detention, separated from her family, despite efforts of many governments and the United Nations to secure her liberation. A group of Nobel peace laureates only got as far as Thailand in an attempt to bring their petition to the military dictators who hold her. In 1994, however, a U.S. congressman was permitted to see her, and, as a result of mediation by a Buddhist monk, she had a conference with members of the government. There is now more hope.
It was announced in October 1992 that the prize would go to Rigoberta Menchú, a Mayan Indian of Guatemala "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethnocultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples."
The decision was generally applauded, but conservative critics charged that Menchú had taken part in violent actions of the Guatemalan guerrillas against the government. Previous Nobel prizes for champions of human rights had been given only to those who used nonviolent methods, like Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. It was true that Menchú had every provocation to take up arms, and two of her sisters had indeed joined the guerrillas. Government soldiers had brutally murdered their mother and brother because their father opposed the landowners, and finally the soldiers had set fire to the Spanish embassy where the father and other compesinos were making a peaceful protest and burned them all to death.
Menchú tells this terrible story in I, Rigoberta Menchú, An Indian Woman in Guatemala, a book composed of a series of reminiscences she dictated in Spanish to the anthropologist Elisabeth Burgos-Debray. That Menchú did not turn to violence, but to political and social work for her people, is the reason why she received the prize. She became an active member of the Committee for Campesino Unity and then helped found the Revolutionary Christians. Menchú explained that "we understood revolutionary in the real meaning of the word 'transformation.' If I had chosen the armed struggle, I would be in the mountains now."
Committee Chairman Sejersted in his presentation speech emphasized the meaning of Menchú's decision. He spoke of "the brutalizing effect of the use of violence. Whoever commits an act of violence will lose his humanity. Thus, violence breeds violence and hate breeds hate." How can one break out of this circle, especially when one is confronted with the blind violence of the other side?
An answer can be found in "the shining individual examples of people who manage to preserve their humanity in brutal and violent surroundings, of persons who for that very reason compel our special respect and admiration. Such people give us a hope that there are ways out of the vicious circle."
To Sejersted, "even in the most brutal situations, one must retain one's faith that there is a minimum of human feelings in all of us. Rigoberta Menchú Tum has preserved that faith."
Her whole life story represents a remarkable achievement. Born in abject poverty among a suppressed people, working since the age of eight --- "I never had a childhood" --- she managed to get some minimal education in her church, where she first showed her potential ability, taught herself Spanish so that she could tell the world of the sufferings of her people, and, driven into exile in Mexico in fear of her life because of her political activities, she developed the skills of leadership and diplomacy until, as the prize announcement states, "Today, Rigoberta Menchú stands as a vivid symbol of peace and reconciliation across ethnic, cultural and social dividing lines, in her own country, on the American continent and in the world."
What did all these women peace Laureates have in common? They were all women of high ideals, prepared to work and sacrifice to bring something better into being, and they labored in the certainty that their objectives would eventually be realized. They all carried within that sacred flame, which Gunnar Jahn perceived in Emily Greene Balch, which inspired them to struggle against odds, to withstand disappointments and defeats, to resolve never to give up. They shared a faith in humanity, whether born of religious conviction or humanism. Most displayed remarkable courage. Not all faced the aimed rifle, as did Aung San Suu Kyi, or had to hide from the soldiers, as did Rigoberta Menchú Tum. But it took courage to withstand the slings and arrows of the militaristic press of Imperial Germany or the war-time patriotic fervor in the United States, just as it took courage to take the first step to break the circle of violence in Northern Ireland.
Sejersted said that "in the good fight for peace and reconciliation, we are dependent on persons who set examples, persons who can symbolize what we are seeking and mobilize the best in us." That all the women Laureates haand faith in the power of good."
In speaking of Jane Addams, Professor Kove done for us, knowing that they are there and have been there "gives us confidence ht referred to "the best feminine qualities which will help us to develop peace on earth." Above all, however, what these nine Nobel Women have shown us is the potential of the human spirit.
Peace and War Issues: Gender, Race, and Ethnicity
in Historical Perspective
November 11-12, 1994
Copyright © 1994
913 Xenia Avenue
Yellow Springs, Ohio 45387
While only nine women have won the Peace Prize, the role of women has been important in the lives of many of the Laureates, the mothers who reared them and the wives who supported them in their peace crusades.
Chief Albert Lutuli (1960), Lord Cecil (1937), and Lord Boyd-Orr (1949) all dedicated their autobiographies to their wives (Lutuli to his mother as well). In the papers of Frédéric Passy (1901) there is a loving poem to his wife, and Eli Ducommun (1902) wrote a beautiful little poem for Adele, "Ange du Foyer," that was published in his Derniers Sourires.
Matilde Bajer did much of the typing of Fredrik Bajer (1908), and was no doubt responsible for his feminst leanings. Ducommun was also an early promoter of women's rights. Boyd-Orr's wife typed his letters with two fingers after he gave all the Prize money away. His friends thought he should have hired a secretary. Whenever he traveled, he took her along, and he would confide to the hotel managers that they were on their honeymoon. As a friend wrote, after fifty years they still were.
The wife of Albert Schweitzer (1952) changed her career plans and trained as a nurse, so that she could help him when he went to Lambaréné. Philip Baker met Irene Noel when working with the Friends Ambulance Unit in World War I, and after they were married he became Noel-Baker (1959).
Cecil said that proposing to Nelly was "the cleverest thing he ever did." Those of us who saw Danuta Walesa in action in Oslo may well think that this was also the case with Lech Walesa (1983).
Linus Pauling (1962) said at Oslo that his Prize should have been shared with Ava Helen Pauling. It was also she who had drawn him into work for peace, and they had worked closely together for the cause.
Marion Wiesel has been a tremendous influence upon her husband Elie (1986). We read in The Accident and other early books how he forswore love as a survivor of the Holocaust. Even after they were married, he had reservations about bringing a child into this dark world. She has brightened his life. And is the translator of his books.
The wife of Léon Jouhaux (1951) was a remarkable person. When Léon and other French notables were detained by the Laval government and the Germans, she handled relations with the jailers as the only one fluent in German.
Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964) married the attractive Coretta Scott thinking she would be the ideal minister's wife. During his lifetime she was very much the mater familiae. He expected her to stay home with the children when he began marching, although on some occasions he let her come along. His hero Gandhi has been called by feminists "a male chauvinist." But it was only after King's death that Coretta has come into her own and shown her leadership abilities.
General George C. Marshall (1953) married a beautiful Southern belle, but he discovered that she was sickly and could never have any children. This was a severe disappointment to Marshall, who would have been a fine father. His second wife was a great support to Marshall.
After Woodrow Wilson (1919) became ill, his wife became of great importance. It is not clear however, that she had any influence on his peacemaking.
The wife of Ludwig Quidde (1927) remained in Munich when he fled to Geneva from Nazi Germany. He had an affair there and did not want her to join him. The pretty secretary I met when I visited him in 1937, was not the one. Quidde did soften his public comments about the Nazi regime in order not to bring reprisal upon his wife.
And the hand that rocked the cradle? The mothers of the Laureates? In many cases these were the most formative and crucial influences in their lives.
The mother of René Cassin (1968) saved his life when he was invalided home in World War I with a stomach wound. The doctors felt it was inoperable and sent him to the terminal ward. His mother was serving as a nurse in that hospital and persuaded a surgeon to operate. He lived to almost ninety.
In several cases mothers have had an important religious influence. This was true of Wiesel (1986), of Father Georges Pire (1958) and of Mother Teresa (1979). Father Pire spoke enthusiastically about his mother "as a ship in full sail," more venturesome, more spirited than his bureaucratic father. Mother Teresa's mother was a pillar of the Catholic Church in Skopje. After her father died when she was young, the visitors at their home were no longer political figures, but Church people. The mother was a deeply religious soul and always helping those in need, an example for the little girl who would grow up to become the Saint of Calcutta.
Lord Cecil spoke glowingly of his mother in his memoirs. After she died, his father, the prime minister, was never the same. Lord Cecil said his mother lived life intensely, everything she did, she entered into, heart and soul.
The mother of Seán McBride (1974) was an Irish beauty of whom the poets sang. His father left the family, went back to Ireland from France, and was executed after the Easter Uprising. It was she who brought Sean up, and when they returned to Ireland, she played a political role as well in the independence movement, which he joined as a young revolutionary.
Lutulu's grandmother was "a lady of the court," something of a concubine, who quite illegally and unconventionally returned to Natal with her younger daughter, who married a Christian minister and became Lutuli's mother. After the father's death, she was determined that her son would get an education and took in washing to pay for his school books. He pays tribute to her in his memoirs.
Ralph Bunche (1950) was raised by his grandmother after the death of his parents. She was responsible for seeing to it that he started up the educational ladder, despite the meager resources that they had. He wrote of her in Reader's Digest as his "Most Unforgettable Character," and at a Fisk commencement he said, "She was a tiny woman, but a personality of indomitable will and invincible moral and spiritual strength." He always remembered how she had told him that he would meet obstacles in life, but he should "go out into the world with your head high and keep it high all the time."
The administrative abilities of Dag Hammarskjöld (1961) may have come from his father, but the poetic and religious and intuitive genes came from his mother. He felt that life had been hard for her because of the frequent absences of his father on official business, and this was one of the reasons why he never married, because he did not want to subject a wife to his life as a never-resting public servant.
Emily Greene Balch (1946) wrote her mother "was the center of my life and its chief influence as long as she lived." She was seventeen when her mother died.
Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) was only two years old when her father was assassinated, and it was her mother who raised her. Daw Khin Kyi was an able woman who served her country in various capacities, including as ambassador to India. Her daughter wrote that her father married a woman who had not only the courage and warmth he needed in his life's companion but also the steadfastness and dignity to uphold his ideals after he was gone. On word that her mother had suffered a severe stroke, Suu Kyi immediately returned to Burma from England to take care of her until she died.
Much of this paper is based upon my previous writings on the Nobel Peace Prize: The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates. An Illustrated Biographical History (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1988), with bibliographies, "The Many Meanings of the Nobel Peace Prize," The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates. The Meaning and Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in the Prizewinners' Countries (Frankfurt-am-Main Peter Lang, 1994), eds. Karl Holl and Anne C. Kjelling, 13-33," The Odd Couple," Scanorama, 23, 11 (November 1994), 18-20.
My essays on Aung Sang Suu Kyi and Rigoberta Menchú Tum were published in The Nobel Prize Annual 1991 (New York: IMG, 1992), 76-85 and the Nobel Prize Annual 1992 (N.Y.: IMG, 1993), 76-87. Volumes in this series are available from International Management Group, 1320 Centre St., Suite 206, Newton Center, MA 02159-2444, USA.
The catalogue of the exhibit organized by the League of Nations and Historical Collections Unit of the United Nations Library in Geneva on the 150th anniversary of Bertha Von Suttner's birth includes articles by leading authorities on the Baroness and on all the women Nobel Peace Laureates and other women peace leaders, along with description of the exhibit and bibliographies: U.N. Library, Geneva: Bertha von Suttner (1843-1993) and Other Women in Pursuit of Peace (Geneva: United Nations, 1993). My contribution was "'Chère Baronne et Amie...' Letters of Alfred Nobel and Bertha von Suttner," pp.9-13.
The presentation and other speeches at the Oslo award ceremonies are published every year on the previous year's Prizes in the Nobel Foundation's Les Prix Nobel (Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell). For this paper I used the following volumes: 1977 (Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan), 33-37, 276-286; 1979 (Mother Teresa), 34-39, 220-225; 1982 (Alva Myrdal), 31-37, 220-228; 1991 (Aung San Suu Kyi), 34-42; 1992 (Rigoberta Menchú Tum), 31-34, 157-179.
Earlier speeches are published in Frederick W. Haberman, Nobel Lectures. Peace . 3 vols. (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1972), 1.81-94 (Bertha von Suttner); 2. 125-135 (Jane Addams, 325-353 (Emily Greene Balch).
Recently published: Aung San Suu Kyi, Freedom from Fear and Other Writings, ed., Michael Aris (New York: Penguin, 1991); I, Rigoberta Menchú Tum. An Indian Woman in Guatemala, ed., Elisabeth Burgos Debray, transl., Ann Wright (London & New York: Verso, 1984), Steven Schroeder, "Towards a Higher Identity: An Interview with Mairead Corrigan Maguire." (Christian Century, 111, 18 (April 20, 1994), 414-416.
* The article was first published on 22 September 1997. Since then three more women laureates have been awarded the Peace Prize: Jody Williams (1997), Shirin Ebadi (2003) and Wangari Maathai (2004). See also list of women laureates. »
There are 35 statues of very important people in Statuary Hall of the Capitol. Thirty-four of them are of men. Frances Willard, suffragist and orator for Prohibition, is the lone woman. She looks somewhat forbidding, but then again, so does everybody else frozen in granite and marble.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton surely will rank for placement there someday. For now, they are making history, and on Thursday, at a reception in that hall, the two took an hour to celebrate together.
Pelosi opened her arms wide to Clinton and they hugged tightly, cheek to cheek, two brilliant red-lipsticked smiles. It was an exuberant display of girliness from two formidable women nearing the end of an extraordinary week for both.
"Whoever thought that on this day of all days, I'd be standing on this podium to celebrate Women's History Month and sharing the stage with two of my role models and two of the greatest female pioneers and role models for all of us?" said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), to cheers, applause and whistles from a crowd of 300 women and men.
Pelosi and Clinton are a testament to women's capacity to compose their lives alongside, rather than distinct from, those around them. One is the first female speaker of the House, a woman who didn't run for office until the youngest of her five children was a high school senior. The other is the first former first lady to become a U.S. senator, a woman who initially derived her political power from her husband and then went on to run for president, winning more than 17 million votes in primaries and caucuses.
One traveled to Mexico and Moscow in the past week and helped to negotiate a deal announced Wednesday that could slash the number of nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia. The other finally brought her disputatious membership to heel and succeeded, where the first had so famously failed, at achieving the sweeping health-insurance reform Democrats had sought for half a century.
"I was so thrilled when that vote finally closed," said Clinton, laughing, of the House passage on Sunday. "And I know what a challenge this was. I have the scars to prove it!" She commended Pelosi for her leadership and courage -- the speaker, who turns 70 on Friday, marched past angry protesters on her way to vote -- and said the bill is "particularly important to women."
But Pelosi made clear that she sees her leadership and Clinton's as serving everyone.
"What makes me so proud when I see her on the international stage is that she is speaking for the United States of America," Pelosi said about Clinton. "And while it is a priority of her secretaryship -- if there is such a word -- her tenure, that women's rights are viewed as human rights and respected throughout the world . . . there is a recognition that when there is a U.S.-Russia treaty on nuclear weapons, that a woman is leading the way on that."
The reception was pulled together as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Women's History Month, before the month slipped away. In 1980, Woolsey said, there were seven women in Congress; now there are 90. Many of them were present Thursday, including at least one Republican, Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, said a spokesman for Pelosi. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis also attended, as did House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer and Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).
"Some of my male colleagues said to me earlier, 'Having another one of your women's meetings, what do they call it, a clutch?' " joked Pelosi.
"Whatever it is, yes, we are." For all the world to see.
|The Exultation to Inanna Tablet, Nippur C. 1750 B. C. E."|
|from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia (Neg. #S8-80401)|
4,000 years of women in science, in technology and other altogether creative stuff! Did you know that? Science is a traditional role for women. Dr. Deborah Crocker at the University of Alabama and Dr. Sethanne Howard retired from the US Naval Observatory maintain this site. They are both astronomers. They dedicate this site to all those wonderful women of our past.
"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit." Helen Keller
We wish we could research in depth all the women listed. There is just too much information and too little time! As we learn more, we add it to this page. Please share what you know with us. Inventors, scholars and writers as well as mathematicians and astronomers are welcome. We hope you enjoy learning about some of these women, and that you use this page to start your own interests in the history of women and their technical contributions.If you don't find the woman you are looking for in the historical lists, perhaps she is
Updated on March 1, 2008.