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Women of Courage

Human rights activist and journalist Supriya Vani brings to the fore remarkable stories of women who fought the odds, overcame social and gender discrimination and inspired hope among people. Through the life portraits of these extraordinary women, the au
Team BT   New Delhi     Print Edition: October 8, 2017
Women of Courage
Photo: Shekhar Ghosh

Battling Injustice: 16 Women Nobel Peace Laureates by Supriya Vani

Harper Collins; Price: Rs 599; Pages: 496

Excerpts:

Alva Myrdal

Pages 389-390

"Alva's UNESCO duties brought her to India in December 1952, where she met India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, at a UNESCO conference about Gandhi. Alva and Nehru would become close in the following years. In their first encounter, she managed to startle the notoriously disengaged politician with an otherwise bland speech. She referred to UNESCO's goals as Gandhian goals and made mention of the Gandhian call to conscience. The great Indian leader had apparently dozed off, as he sat listening to the usual procession of pleasant homilies that such events oblige. But when Alva said, with characteristic forthrightness, "And the truth must be the same, in whatever circumstances one speaks it, whether it concerns Korea or Kashmir," the great statesman of the subcontinent awoke with a start. Her reference did not offend Nehru in the least, though. He invited Alva to lunch the following day, and they would remain friends until his death on 27 May 1964. Alva later described their friendship as 'an affectionate relationship that never became a relationship'. Speculation as to the exact nature of that relationship aside, Nehru's framed picture accompanied Alva as she lay bedridden and dying more than three decades after they met"

Mother Teresa

Pages 411

"The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Professor John Sannes, revealed that what had motivated the committee to confer the Nobel Peace Prize on Mother Teresa had been a comment made by the president of the World Bank, Robert S. McNamara: "Mother Teresa deserves the Nobel Peace Prize because she promotes peace in the most fundamental manner - by her confirmation of the inviolability of human dignity." She refused to attend the Nobel banquet, but agreed to receive the Nobel Prize 'in the name of the poor', to which the Norwegian Nobel Committee agreed"

Bertha von Suttner

Pages 480

"The first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize was Baroness Bertha von Suttner, a Czech-Austrian pacifist, journalist and novelist. Born Bertha Felicitas Sophie on 9 June 1843, in Prague, Bohemia, she boasted a proud military heritage. She was the daughter of a distinguished Austrian lieutenant general. Bertha was the second woman to win a Nobel Prize - Marie Curie being the first, two years earlier in 1903 - and the first Austrian Nobel laureate.

Her mother, Sophie von Korner, was an astonishing fifty years her father's junior. When her father died, he was seventy-five years old. Bertha was born posthumously and was brought up by her mother and remained under the guardianship of Friedrich Zu Furstenberg, a member of the Austrian court. Her elder brother, Arthur, was sent to a military boarding school at the age of six and had little contact with his family thereafter. Bertha's early years were rich with education, voracious reading and travel. She evinced a strong interest in music, particularly singing, and learnt several languages - English, German, Italian and French. But though she enjoyed these trappings of her social milieu, having been born into an aristocratic family, she was of the unlanded nobility: Financial worries would haunt her, and she would face hardship at various stages of her life. Her mother had no means of sustaining the family comfortably and squandered what money she had by gambling and poor management of the family's already depleted resources"

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