Alva Myrdal was a Swedish politician, diplomat and a sociologist, best remembered as the winner of 1982 Nobel Prize for Peace. She worked tirelessly to transform her country's social welfare system, as well as extended her efforts beyond Sweden to work for world peace. She combined together her profound commitment with great professional insight in her work towards disarmament and to end the propagation of nuclear weaponry in the second half of the twentieth century. Born to a middle class family, she was highly influenced by her parents and became motivated towards creating a better society from an early age. After becoming an educator, she made earnest efforts in order to make changes in her country's educational policies and she built a reputation for herself as an activist for women's rights. During the inter-war years, she devoted herself towards improving the conditions of the working class through the Social Democrat Party, and after the war she held prominent posts in the United Nations, dealing with the organization’s welfare policies. But her most remarkable contribution was her advocacy of world disarmament for which she received a Nobel Prize for Peace. As the representative of a non-aligned Sweden, she worked actively to persuade the superpowers to promote disarmament. She was a selfless promoter of world peace and dedicated all her life towards creating a better world for humanity.
Childhood & Early Life
She was born on January 31, 1902 in Uppsala, Sweden to Albert Reimer, a building contractor and socialist, and his wife, Larsson Reimer. She was one of the five children in her middle class family.
She was a bright child and admired her father but had a strained relationship with her mother. Nonetheless, she acquired the will to contribute significantly towards the betterment of the society from both the parents.
After receiving her early education, she attended the University of Stockholm and obtained a Bachelor in Arts degree in Scandinavian languages and literature and the history of religion in 1924.
In 1929, she moved with her husband to United States and pursued her interest in education by studying the nation’s experimental schools.
In 1930-31, she returned to Sweden and got enrolled in the University of Geneva. Later, she transferred her credits to the University of Uppsala and earned a master’s degree in social psychology.
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After completing her post-graduation, she established a preschool teacher’s training college, ‘The Social Pedagogical Institute’ and served as its director until 1948.
In 1943, she was appointed on the Social Democrat Party’s committee with the task of drafting a post-war program. She was also appointed to the Government Commission on International Post-War Aid and Reconstruction, the same year.
In 1949-50, she was appointed as the principal director of the ‘United Nations Department of Social Welfare’.
From 1950 to 1955, she served as the chairman at the ‘Department of Social Sciences’ in UNESCO.
From 1955 to 1961, she served as Sweden’s ambassador to India.
In 1961, she was appointed as the special disarmament adviser to the Swedish foreign minister. The following year, she was elected to Swedish Parliament as a Social Democrat and was sent to Geneva as the head of the Swedish delegation to the Geneva Disarmament Conference.
In 1966, she was elected as the ‘consultative cabinet minister’ in the Swedish government, a post she held until her retirement in 1973.
After retirement, she returned to the field of education and taught sociology in some American schools. In later years, she also contributed towards the establishment of ‘Stockholm International Peace Research’ (SIPRI).
She also published some notable works in the area of disarmament, inspired from her career experiences. Some of her non-fictional works are ‘Nation and Family’ (1965), ‘Women's Two Roles’ (1968), ‘War, Weapons and Everyday Violence’ (1977) and ‘Dynamics of European Nuclear Disarmament’ (1981).
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Her most significant contribution was her persistent advocacy for disarmament to every nation in the world. She raised her voice and emerged as the leader of the group of non-aligned nations that strived to put pressure on the USA and USSR to show greater concern for concrete disarmament measures.
Her 1976 non-fiction ‘The Game of Disarmament: How the United States and Russia Run the Arms Race’ is considered one of her notable literary works in the field of disarmament. It expresses her disappointment at the reluctance of the USA and the USSR to promote disarmament.
Awards & Achievements
In 1970, she was jointly awarded the ‘West German Peace Prize’ with her husband, Gunnar Myrdal.
In 1980, she was conferred the prestigious ‘Albert Einstein Peace Prize’ and the following year, she received the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding’.
In 1982, she became the winner of ‘Nobel Prize for Peace’ together with Alfonso Garcia Robles, a Mexican diplomat, for their magnificent work in the disarmament negotiations of the United Nations.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1924, she married Gunnar Myrdal, an economist and sociologist. The couple was blessed with three children; two daughters, Sissela Bok and Kaj Fölster and a son, Jan Myrdal.
On February 1, 1986 she died at the age of 84, in Ersta, Sweden. Her remains were buried at the Norra Begravningsplatsen, Stockholm, Sweden.