A List of Women With Nobel Peace Prizes

Nobel Peace Laureates at 14th World Summit, 2014, Rome
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Women Nobel Peace Laureates are fewer in number than men who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, even though it may have been a woman's peace activism which inspired Alfred Nobel to create the award. In recent decades, the percentage of women among the winners has increased. On the next pages, you'll meet the women who've won this rare honor.

Baroness Bertha von Suttner, 1905

Bertha von Suttner
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A friend of Alfred Nobel, Baroness Bertha von Suttner was a leader in the international peace movement in the 1890s, and she received support from Nobel for her Austrian Peace Society. When Nobel died, he bequeathed money for four prizes for scientific achievements, and one for peace. Though many (including, perhaps, the Baroness) expected the peace prize to be awarded to her, three other individuals and one organization were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize before the committee named her in 1905.

Jane Addams, 1935 (shared with Nicholas Murray Butler)

Jane Addams
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Jane Addams, best known as the founder of Hull-House (a settlement house in Chicago) was active in peace efforts during World War I with the International Congress of Women. Jane Addams also helped to found the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was nominated numerous times, but the prize went each time to others, until 1931. She was, by that time, in ill health, and could not travel to accept the prize.

Emily Greene Balch, 1946 (shared with John Mott)

Emily Greene Balch
Courtesy Library of Congress

A friend and co-worker of Jane Addams, Emily Balch also worked to end World War I and helped to found the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She was a professor of social economics at Wellesley College for 20 years but was fired for her World War I peace activities. Though a pacifist, Balch supported the American entry into World War II.

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, 1976

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan
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Together, Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. Williams, a Protestant, and Corrigan, a Catholic, came together to work for peace in Northern Ireland, organizing peace demonstrations that brought together Roman Catholics and Protestants, protesting violence by British soldiers, Irish Republican Army (IRA) members (Catholics), and Protestant extremists. 

Mother Teresa, 1979

Mother Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, December 1979
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Born in Skopje, Macedonia (formerly in Yugoslavia and the Ottoman Empire), Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in India and focused on serving the dying. She was skilled at publicizing her order's work and thus financing the expansion of its services. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her "work in bringing help to suffering humanity." She died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

Alva Myrdal, 1982 (shared with Alfonso García Robles)

Gunnar and Alva Myrdal 1970
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Alva Myrdal, a Swedish economist and advocate of human rights, as well as a United Nations department head (the first woman to hold such a position) and Swedish ambassador to India, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with a fellow disarmament advocate from Mexico, at a time when the disarmament committee at the UN had failed in its efforts.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991

Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking to supporters after her 2010 release
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Aung San Suu Kyi, whose mother was ambassador to India and father de facto prime minister of Burma (Myanmar), won​ the election but was denied the office by a military government. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent work for human rights and independence in Burma (Myanmar). She spent most of her time from 1989 to 2010 under house arrest or imprisoned by the military government for her dissident work.

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992

Rigoberta Menchu
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Rigoberta Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for "ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples."

Jody Williams, 1997 (shared with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines)

Jody Williams: International Rendez Vous Cinema Verite 2007
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Jody Williams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), for their successful campaign to ban antipersonnel landmines; landmines that target human beings. 

Shirin Ebadi, 2003

Shirin Ebadi: 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Awards Ceremony, Oslo
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Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi was the first person from Iran and the first Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was awarded the prize for her work on behalf of refugee women and children. 

Wangari Maathai, 2004

Wangari Maatha at Edinburgh 50,000 - The Final Push: 2005
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Wangari Maathai founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya in 1977, which has planted more than 10 million trees to prevent soil erosion and provide firewood for cooking fires. Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to be named a Nobel Peace Laureate, honored "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace." 

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2001 (shared)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, at the UN General Assembly
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Nobel Peace Prize for 2011 was awarded to three women "for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work," with the head of the Nobel committee saying "We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society." 

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was one. Born in Monrovia, she studied economics, including study in the United States, culminating in a Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard. A part of the government from 1972 and 1973 and 1978 to 1980, she escaped assassination during a coup, and finally fled to the U.S. in 1980. She has worked for private banks as well as for the World Bank and the United Nations. After losing in the 1985 elections, she was arrested and imprisoned and fled for the U.S. in 1985. She ran against Charles Taylor in 1997, fleeing again when she lost, then after Taylor was ousted in a civil war, won the 2005 presidential election, and has been widely recognized for her attempts to heal the divisions within Liberia.

Leymah Gbowee, 2001 (shared)

Leymah Gbowee at press conference ahead of Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011
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Leymah Roberta Gbowee was honored for her work for peace within Liberia. Herself a mother, she worked as a counselor with former child soldiers after the First Liberian Civil War. In 2002, she organized women across Christian and Muslim lines to pressure both factions for peace in the Second Liberian Civil War, and this peace movement helped to bring to an end that war.

Tawakul Karman, 2011 (shared)

Tawakul Karman talks with press before Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011
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Tawakul Karman, a young Yemeni activist, was one of three women (the other two from Liberia) awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. She has organized protests within Yemen for freedom and human rights, heading the organization, Women Journalists Without Chains. Using nonviolence to fuel the movement, she has strongly urged the world to see that fighting terrorism and religious fundamentalism in Yemen (where al-Qaeda is a presence) means working to end poverty and increase human rights rather than backing an autocratic and corrupt central government.

Malala Yousafzai, 2014 (shared)

Malala Yousafzai
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The youngest person to win a Nobel Prize, Malala Yousafzai was an advocate for the education of girls from 2009, when she was eleven years old. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot her in the head. She survived the shooting, recovered in England where her family moved to avoid further targeting and continued to speak out for the education of all children including girls.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "A List of Women With Nobel Peace Prizes." ThoughtCo, Sep. 3, 2021, thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, September 3). A List of Women With Nobel Peace Prizes. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "A List of Women With Nobel Peace Prizes." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863 (accessed March 27, 2023).