There have been many people in the past who have made great progress in furthering peace, good ideals, and justice. Below are just a few of the people whom we can learn from and follow. We also should emphasize that the list is incomplete; there are many figures who have never been recognized but have worked for peace, and there are many peacemakers working now who have yet to be recognized. Alfred Nobel and Bertha Von Suttner, are first because they set the scene for the 20th century. If there are individuals that you believe should be recognized please send us their names and any biographical information you have.
The year 2001 is the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize. This prestigious international award is named for Swedish philanthropist, Alfred Nobel. By inventing dynamite in 1867, he became one of the wealthiest industrialists in Europe at the turn of the century. Besides developing the technology of explosives, Nobel was also known to be a literate man interested in philosophy, literature, and poetry. Nobel created the provision of his will in 1895. He died on December 10th,1896 leaving his fortune to create the Nobel Foundation.
Since 1901, the Nobel Prizes have been awarded on December 10th which is the anniversary of his death. The list of Nobel Prize laureates represent an important chronicle of courageous women and men who have influenced the modern peace movement of this century. The Nobel Prize Internet Archive will help us to remember their individual stories of heroism.
Bertha von Suttner (1843-1914) was an Austrian writer and peace activist who inspired Alfred Nobel to create the peace clause in his famous will. According to Nobel, he wanted to honor a person "who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congressess." In her lifetime, Bertha von Suttner was an inspiring spokesperson for the principles of arbitration. In 1889, she published her novel, "DIE WAFFEN NIEDER"(LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS) which became an international bestseller and was made into a silent film in 1913. Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905.
Benito Pablo Juarez (1806-1872) was an important 19th century Mexican political leader. He was a lawyer from 1834 to 1846. In 1847, he was elected governor of Oaxaca and did a lot of good work there. He was part of the liberal movement, which wanted constitutional government, reduction of the military and clerical power, and redistribution of the church's land. He was exiled by Santa Anna in 1853. Juarez returned two years later. He quickly became minister of justice and had the Juarez Law enacted, which gave the church and the army less power. Juarez was one of the leaders of the War of the Reform (1858-1860). On the success of the liberals, he was elected president of Mexico in 1861. The government was very poor, so Juarez stopped payment of European loans for two years, which caused the French to invade Mexico. Juarez led the war for freedom and again became president in 1867. He changed the land system, separated church and state, and instituted religious tolerance. In 1871, Juarez ran for president again, but neither candidate received a clear majority of votes. The Mexican Congress solved the problem by electing Juarez.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was the son of Scottish immigrants who grew up in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. He began his working career at age 13 when he worked as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill. Carnegie proved to be an industrious worker who was employed by Western Union and the Pennsylvania Railroad. Eventually, he organized the Carnegie Steel Company which launched the steel industry in Pittsburgh. At the age of 65, he sold the company to J.P. Morgan and devoted the rest of his life to philanthropy. He endowed the famous World Tribunal Court which is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Andrew Carnegie is best known for his financial commitment to build public libraries throughout the United States. In 1911, he created the Carnegie Corporation, which is one of the great charitable foundations in the U.S. today.
Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961) was a lifelong activist for peace.
She attended Bryn Mawr, a women's college near Philadelphia. She taught economics and sociology at Wellesly College for nearly twenty years, but was eventually fired for opposing World War I. After the war, she and a group of women founded the Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom, an organization of which she became the secretary-treasurer. She also became the
president of the American section of WILPF after establishing branches in more than fifty countries. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) played the main role in the independence of India and South Africa. He was an Indian who was able to bring together both the Hindus and Muslims in India to fight against the authoritarian British rule. He was also a strong believer in nonviolence, but many Indians were beaten when they marched without fear against the British. Also, the British massacred hundreds of Indians at Amritsar, firing until the bullets ran out. But Gandhi and the Indians stuck to nonviolence.
After India's independence, however, the Muslims and Hindus lost their unity and fought each-other, disregarding Gandhi's teachings and breaking up India into three countries.
In bringing together people from many different regions, traditions, and religions, Gandhi hoped to achieve for India a state of harmony for all its citizens- a true peace effort.
Albert Schweitzer's life demonstrated a commitment to scholarship and service. As a young man in Germany, Schweitzer (1875-1965) dedicated himself to the study of theology and philosophy, publishing his famous book, "Quest of the Historical Jesus." At the age of thirty, he received a doctorate in music for his outstanding research of the life of J.S. Bach. Eventually, he attended medical school in order to serve as a medical missionary in Africa in 1913. His hospital in Lambarene attracted worldwide attention because of his selfless devotion to provide medical asistance to isolated villages there. He received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 at the age of 77. His acceptance speech was described as a "Declaration of Conscience" in that Schweitzer expressed his personal opposition to atomic testing at that time. Today, Albert Schweitzer is known as one of the great humanitarians of the 20th century, because he promoted "Reverence for Life," a philosophy of service and nonviolence.
As a young woman living in Chicago at the turn of the century, Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was inspired by Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle. She would walk through the poor neighborhoods of Chicago's South Side asking how she could help relieve the suffering she saw. By the early 1930's during the Great Depression, Dorothy Day had become a noted editor and activist who promoted principles of charity by organizing the Catholic Worker movement. Because of her leadership, Catholic Worker houses were established throughout the United States which provided "hospitality" for those in need. In recoginition of her long career in confronting social injustices, Notre Dame University presented her its Laetare Medal, thanking her for "comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable."
Nelson Mandela (1918- ) is famous for his work to end apartheid.
Born in South Africa, Mandela joined the African National
Congress in 1944. In 1948, the South African government started
apartheid. The government outlawed the ANC itself twelve years
later. In 1962, Mandela was accused and convicted of treason, and
was given a life sentence. His wife, Winnie, lobbied for his
release, which came in 1990. After succeeding
in getting the laws relating to apartheid repealed in 1990 and
1991, he lobbied for a national election in which all races could
vote. The first such
election was held in April 1994, and Mandela was then elected the
country's first black president. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993
Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995) was famous for his work on the Middle East
peace process. He was Isreal's chief of staff of the armed forces
from 1964 to 1968, and then the Israeli
ambassador to the United States between 1968 and 1973. Rabin was then Prime Minister from 1973
to 1977, and then defense minister from 1984 to 1990. He was
re-elected Prime Minister in 1992. In 1993, he signed an agreement
for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. He
wrote "The Rabin Memoirs" in 1979. Rabin received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994. In November 1995, he was
assassinated by a Jewish law student, Yigal Amir, who wanted to halt
the Middle East peace process. This tragic event, the killing of the
Israeli Prime Minister by an Israeli, was felt the world over.
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) was a labor union organizer. When he was ten, his family lost their farm and were forced to become
California migrant workers. In 1962, Chavez started the National
Farm Workers Association. Four years later, it merged with another
organization and became the United Farm Workers Organizing
Committee (UFWOC). In the years that followed, Chavez organized two
grape boycotts and a lettuce boycott because growers would not
accept unions. In the meantime, the group changed its name to
United Farmworkers of America. In the 1980s, UFW boycotted table
grapes because of pesticide use. Even though there were a few uses
of violence during UFW strikes, Chavez always was against violence
Martin Luther King, Jr (1929-1968) was a minister who helped bring about the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. He concentrated his efforts on working for equal rights of African Americans, using speeches and marches to deliver his message. He used only non-violent demonstrations, but in return the police beat the demonstrators and sprayed them with fire hoses, making them out as a threat.
Blacks won their legal rights, but de facto discrimination toward them still exists. King was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, working with both African and Euro-Americans during the civil rights movement and seeking an end to racist laws and actions sanctioned by the U.S. government. He sought to further understanding and unity between the many different racial groups in America. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Rigoberta Menchu Tum is an Indian woman in Guatemala who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for her work with the guerillas fighting against the government. She has sought to end the unfair plantation forced labor and massive genocide of indigenous peoples imposed by the government, which is funded by the American CIA. Menchu speaks around the world, telling people about the atrocities in her country and encouraging them to join this struggle. The situation is twice as terrible because the Guatemalan army is composed of people forced into killing of their own comrades. Rigoberta has struggled to expose this corruption, as well as fighting her own battle with the loss of her family. She has done so nonviolently, and has made great progress in winning the battle against corruption and genocide.