At just 21 years old, peace activist Supriya Vani got the opportunity of a lifetime to interview Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Coming out of a fantastic discussion with one of the world’s fiercest political leaders and peace advocates, Vani knew she needed to tell the stories of the incredible female peace activists who’ve shone throughout history.
Since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, only 16 women have ever had the honor of becoming a Nobel Peace Laureate. In Vani’s new book, Battling Injustice: 16 Women Nobel Peace Laureates ($20), she profiles each one of these remarkable women, detailing their heroic deeds, vast accomplishments, and crucial wisdom.
"These stories, the result of six years of crisscrossing the globe to interview these remarkable women, show what a great reservoir of resilience a woman possesses to withstand all the vicissitudes of life," Vani told us in an interview. Swipe through for a brief history of the 16 amazing women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala Yousafzai, 2014: Malala Yousafzai stunned the world when, at the age of 14, she was shot in the head at point-blank range by two Taliban assassins on her school bus simply for saying that she and her friends deserved an education. Since becoming a globally recognized activist for girls' education and moving to the United Kingdom, Malala continues to work as an advocate and has recently begun her bachelor's degree at Oxford, studying philosophy, politics, and economics. (Photo via Nigel Waldron/Getty)
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 2011: Despite being married to an abusive and drunken husband at just 17 years old, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was destined to be one of the world's most notable women (a wise man literally predicted that she would become a great woman who was destined to lead others when she was only an infant). Channeling her determination, grit, and incredible sagacity, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has served as the president of Liberia since 2006, making her Africa's first elected female head of state. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her non-violent efforts on behalf of women's rights to full participation in peace-building work. (Photo via Paul Morigi/Getty)
Leymah Gbowee, 2011: One of three women who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, Leymah Gbowee led the women's peace movement that was decisive in ending the Liberian civil war in 2002. Dressed in white t-shirts, participants in Gbowee's Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace staged daily protests at the fish market in Monrovia, attempted a now-famous sex strike, and raised enough money to put significant pressure on representatives at the peace talks to insight meaningful and lasting change. (Photo via Sarah Hummert/Getty)
Tawakkol Karman, 2011: Yemeni journalist, politician, and human rights activist Tawakkol Karman has been fiercely advocating for peace her entire life. In 2005, she created the Women Journalists Without Chains group, which, after being denied a license for a newspaper and radio station, held weekly protests against the government for freedom of the press and other social issues. In January 2011, she redirected her efforts to support the Jasmine Revolution, which led to her being jailed multiple times as the popularity of her demonstrations skyrocketed. (Photo via Omar Shagaleh/Anadolu Agency/Getty)
Wangari Muta Maathai, 2004: Wangari Muta Maathai was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. While excelling intellectually and accomplishing numerous "firsts" in academia, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, an environmental NGO focusing on tree planting, environmental conservation, and women's rights. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Sadly, Maathai passed away in 2011 from ovarian cancer. (Photo via Charley Gallay/Getty)
Shirin Ebadi, 2003: Shirin Ebadi was determined to follow her father's example by becoming a lawyer; later, while only in her early 20s, she became one of the first Iranian female judges in 1969. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Ebadi was demoted from a judge to a typist because of the new administration's traditional beliefs. In protest, she requested early retirement until 1999, when she set up her own practice. There, she handled national cases, famously representing the family of Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar. Ebadi earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts in democracy and human rights — particularly, in the struggle for the rights of women and children. (Photo via Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty)
Jody Williams, 1997: Jody Williams is an American teacher, feminist, and political activist who is best known for her work in banning anti-personnel land mines. Her efforts led to an international treaty banning the weapons, which was approved by a majority of representatives during a diplomatic conference in Oslo in 1997. (Photo via Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty)
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992: Rigoberta Menchú Tum gained international acclaim after the publication of her book I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, which detailed the suffering of Guatemala's indigenous people during the country's civil war. Despite never attending school, Menchú Tum had a fierce determination that led her to become a respected political activist, and she has dedicated her life to publicizing the rights of Guatemala's indigenous people. Since receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, she has run for President of Guatemala twice, in 2007 and 2011. (Photo via Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty)
Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991: Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician and diplomat who was an instrumental leader during the 8888 Uprising and consequently served as the General Secretary for the National League for Democracy. In 1989, Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, without charge or trial, which she would be under for nearly 15 years. In 2015, Suu Kyi's political party won in a landslide victory and today she holds the newly created role of State Counsellor of Myanmar. (Photo via Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty)
Alva Myrdal, 1982: Swedish sociologist and respected politician Alva Myrdal held a deep passion for learning since childhood (she would often bring library books home hidden under her skirt). After finding an intellectual match in her husband, Myrdal pursued sociology and devoted herself to improving the conditions of the working class. Holding many notable positions — head of UNESCO's social science section, the Swedish Ambassador to India, the government minister in charge of disarmament issues — she was elected to the Swedish riksdag (legislative assembly) in 1962 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 along with Alfonso García Robles. (Photo via Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/ Getty)
Mother Teresa, 1979: Born in August of 1910 in Skopje, Albania, Mother Teresa knew from a very young age that she wanted to pursue nunship. In 1950, she founded the Catholic congregation Missionaries of Charity, which vowed to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of poor." In 2016, Mother Teresa was recognized by Pope Francis as an official saint. (Photo via Tim Graham/Getty)
Betty Williams, 1976: With a Protestant father and Catholic mother, Betty Williams was raised with a keen heart for religious tolerance and a hope for peace. In 1976, Williams witnessed three innocent children killed in a shooting in Belfast. This tragic incident propelled her to join forces with one of the victim's aunts, Mairead Corrigan, who simultaneously became a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, to create a peace organization called the Community of Peace People, dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to the Troubles in Northern Ireland. (Photo via Ernesto Ruscio/Getty)
Mairead Corrigan, 1976: After her sister lost three children in a shooting in Belfast, Mairead Corrigan, along with Betty Williams, founded an organization called the Community of Peace People to help inspire peace between the Catholics and Protestants during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. (Photo via Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty)
Emily Greene Balch, 1946: American-born Emily Greene Balch was a master of sociology, specializing in the living conditions of workers, immigrants, minorities, and women. During World War I, Balch and Jane Addams (also a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) worked together in Chicago to aid the peace movement and help persuade the heads of state of neutral countries to intervene. Despite being labeled as a dangerous radical by the US government, Balch was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. (Photo via Ullstein Bild/Getty)
Jane Addams, 1931: Known as the "mother of social work," Jane Addams was an American activist, war criticizer, social worker, author, and leader in women's suffrage. In 1889, Addams co-founded Hull House in an underprivileged area of Chicago. Frequently publishing radically feminist essays and lectures, Addams later served as the president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom until 1929. She died shortly after receiving her Nobel Peace Prize in 1935. (Photo via Hulton Archive/Getty)
Bertha von Suttner, 1905: Raised in Austrian aristocratic society, Baroness Bertha Felicie Sophie von Suttner rebelled against her upbringing by taking a teaching position in Vienna and later becoming Alfred Nobel's secretary in New York. Von Suttner is the author of several books that tremendously impacted the public sentiment of the time, including The Machine Age and Lay Down Your Arms. She later took this literary celebrity and became a leader in the peace movement for the remainder of her notable life. (Photo via ÖNB/Imagno/Getty)
Want to know more about the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates? Pick up a copy of Battling Injustice: 16 Women Nobel Peace Laureates by Supriya Vani and tweet us your thoughts by mentioning @BritandCo.
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