Women Laureates of the Nobel Prize (Part II)

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In my previous article, “Women Laureates of the Nobel Prize (Part I)”, I mentioned the vast degrees and diverse fields to which have contributed brilliant minds. In this article, I venture to voice the contributions of those in the fields of Literature, and peaceful practices.


1909, Selma Ottilia Lovisa Lagerlof –
Swedish prose-writer Selma Lagerlof became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in the field of Literature “in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings”.

1926, Grazia Deledda –
For “her idealistically inspired writings which with plastic clarity picture the life on her native island and with depth and sympathy deal with human problems in general”, she won the prize for her contribution to the field of Italian prose.

1928, Sigrid Undset –
The Norwegian prose-writer was bestowed with the honour of the Nobel Prize “principally for her powerful descriptions of Northern life during the Middle Ages”.

1938, Pearl Buck –
For “her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces”, she became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for English prose.

1945, Gabriela Mistral –
She received the honour for Spanish poetry “for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world”.

1966, Nelly Sachs –
She won the Nobel for her contribution to German poetry, “for her outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel’s destiny with touching strength”.

1991, Nadine Gordimer –
Deeply involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, she received the Nobel for English prose because she, “through her magnificent epic writing has – in the words of Alfred Nobel – been of very great benefit to humanity”.

1993, Toni Morrison –
American author, editor and professor Toni Morrison’s writing provides penetrating depictions of the world of the black people in America, and she was a recipient of the Nobel for contribution to English prose, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality”.

1996, Wislawa Szymborska –
She was awarded with the honour for her contribution to Polish poetry, “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”.

2004, Elfriede Jelinek –
For “her musical flow of voices and counter-voices in novels and plays that with extraordinary linguistic zeal reveal the absurdity of society’s clichés and their subjugating power”, she won the Nobel Prize for German drama and prose.

2007, Doris Lessing –
Her works had “that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny”, and thus, she received the honour for English prose.

2009, Herta Müller-
She received the honour for her prosaic compositions in German, because she was someone “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed”.

2013, Alice Munro –
She won the Nobel Prize for English prose for being a “master of the contemporary short story”.


1905, Baroness Bertha von Suttner –
Referred to as the “generalissimo of the peace movement” of Austria, she became the first woman to be awarded the Peace Prize. She was the author of ‘Lay Down Your Arms’, and later, also went on to become the honorary President of Permanent International Peace Bureau, Berne, Switzerland.

1931, Jane Addams –
Founder of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919, she became the second woman to win the Nobel Prize for her work as a great sociologist.

1946, Emily Greene Balch –
Despite being a renowned sociologist, and working all her life in favour of disarmament and peace, the official US had long regarded her as a dangerous radical. However, for her great efforts for peaceful existence, she was awarded the Nobel Prize.

1976, Betty Williams –
Founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People), she had witnessed a terrible shooting incident in Belfast where three innocent children lost their lives, and she decided to launch an appeal against such baseless conflicts. Her contributions were recognised and she received the Peace Prize in ’76.

1976, Mairead Corrigan –
Mairead Corrigan’s sister lost three children in a shooting incident in Belfast, that Betty Williams had also witnessed. Together they launched appeals and started movements, and never losing hope along the way. One of the co-founders of the Community of Peace People, she rightly received the Nobel Prize for Peace.

1979, Mother Teresa –
Leader of Missionaries of Charity, Calcutta, Catholic-Albanian girl Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu was recognised for her humanitarian endeavours and received the Peace Prize in ’79. Her contributions were further recognised when in 2003, the Pope took the first step towards her canonization.

1982, Alva Myrdal –
The head of UNESCO’s social science section and the Swedish Ambassador to India from 1955, Myrdal made a name for herself as a campaigner for women’s rights. She also promoted disarmament and nuclear weapons-free zones, and received the Peace Prize for her contributions towards arms control.

1991, Aung San Suu Kyi –
Daughter of the legendary liberation movement leader Aung San, she was one of the founders of the National League for Democracy, and won the Nobel Prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights”.

1992, Rigoberta Menchu Tum –
One of the greatest workers for the rights of indigenous people and later, a UN Ambassador for the world’s indigenous peoples, Rigoberta was awarded the Nobel for her fight for human rights, “in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples”.

1997, Jody Williams –
Williams, a driving force in the launching of an international campaign against landmines, she won the Peace Prize for her contribution in the fields of arms control and disarmament, peace movement, “for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines”.

2003, Shirin Ebadi –
Iran’s first female judge, Ebadi took up the struggle for fundamental human rights and especially the rights of women and children. She received the Nobel “for her efforts for democracy and human rights. She has focused especially on the struggle for the rights of women and children”.

2004, Wangari Maathai –
The first female scholar from East and Central Africa to take a doctorate (in biology), and the first female professor ever in her home country of Kenya, Maathai was awarded the Peace Prize “for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”.

2011, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkul Karman (left to right)-
Together they received the Nobel Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.

If one takes into consideration the contributions of all the peace-workers, and how their actions were in favour of human welfare in general, one cannot help but disagree with Erik Lensherr when he says, ” Peace was never an option.”

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