Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners

Still a Minority

Nobel Peace Laureates at 14th World Summit, 2014, Rome
(L-R) Shirin Ebadi, Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino, Bernardo Bertolucci, Betty Williams and Tawakkol Karman at 14th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, December 14, 2014, in Rome, Italy. Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

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.

01
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Baroness Bertha von Suttner

Bertha von Suttner
Bertha von Suttner. Imagno/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1905

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.

02
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Jane Addams

Jane Addams
Jane Addams. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1931 (shared with Nicholas Murray Butler)

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.

More >> Jane Addams

03
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Emily Greene Balch

Emily Greene Balch
Emily Greene Balch. Courtesy Library of Congress

Nobel Peace Prize, 1946 (shared with John Mott, YMCA)

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.

More >> Emily Greene Balch

04
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Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan

Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan
Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, founders of the Women's Peace Movement in Ulster. 1976. Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1976

They founded the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. Betty Williams, a Protestant, and Mairead 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. 

05
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Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, December 1979
Mother Teresa receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, December 1979, Oslo. Keystone/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1979

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.

More >> Mother Teresa Quotes

06
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Alva Myrdal

Gunnar and Alva Myrdal 1970
Gunnar and Alva Myrdal 1970. Authenticated News/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1982 (shared with Alfonso García Robles)

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.

07
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Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking to supporters after her 2010 release
Aung San Suu Kyi, speaking to supporters after her 2010 release. CKN/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1991

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose mother was ambassador to India and father de facto prime minister of Burma (Myanmar), won 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.

More >> Aung San Suu Kyi Quotes

08
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Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchu
Rigoberta Menchu. Sami Sarkis/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1992

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

09
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Jody Williams

Jody Williams: International Rendez Vous Cinema Verite 2007
Jody Williams: International Rendez Vous Cinema Verite 2007. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 1997 (shared with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, ICBL)

Jody Williams was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

More >> Jody Williams

10
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Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi: 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Awards Ceremony, Oslo
Shirin Ebadi: 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Awards Ceremony, Oslo. Jon Furniss/WireImage/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2003

Iranian human rights advocate Shirin Ebadi was the first person from Iran and the first Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize.

11
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Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maatha at Edinburgh 50,000 - The Final Push: 2005
Wangari Maatha at Edinburgh 50,000 - The Final Push: 2005. MJ Kim/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2004

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." 

12
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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, at the UN General Assembly
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations, September 2010. Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2011 (shared)

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" (Thorbjorn Jagland). 

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 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.

13
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Leymah Gbowee

Leymah Gbowee at press conference ahead of Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011
Leymah Gbowee at press conference ahead of Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011. Ragnar Singsaas/WireImage/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2011 (shared)

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.

14
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Tawakul Karman

Tawakul Karman talks with press before Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011
Tawakul Karman talks with press before Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Oslo, December 2011. Ragnar Singsaas/WireImage/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2011 (shared) 

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 -- including women's rights -- rather than backing an autocratic and corrupt central government.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai. Veronique de Viguerie/Getty Images

Nobel Peace Prize, 2014 (shared)

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. More »

16
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Women Who Worked for Peace

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners." ThoughtCo, Oct. 10, 2017, thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, October 10). Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Women Nobel Peace Prize Winners." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-nobel-peace-prize-winners-3529863 (accessed November 21, 2017).