Bertha Felicitas Sophie Freifrau von Suttner (Baroness Bertha von Suttner, née Countess Kinsky, Gräfin Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau)
Praag 1843-Wenen 1914
Over Bertha von Suttner
De allereerste vrouw die de Nobelprijs voor Vrede kreeg. De overtuiging van Bertha voor het pacifisme was beslist geen makkelijke keuze in het sterk militaristische klimaat dat in die dagen heerste in Oostenrijk-Hongarije en Duitsland. Samen met haar man reisde ze veel. In Parijs leerde ze mensen kennen die haar in contact brachten met de International Arbitration en Peace Association (opgericht in 1880 in Londen). Daar ontmoette ze dezelfde idealen als zijzelf in haar jaren in de Kaukasus had ontwikkeld. Ze streed niet alleen voor de vredesbeweging, maar ook voor vrouwenrechten, voor meer democratie en voor gelijke sociale en politieke rechten, omdat naar haar idee al deze rechten zouden bijdragen aan de kans op vrede in de toekomst. Op tal van andere gebieden was Bertha von Suttner ook liberaal en vooruitstrevend voor haar tijd. Zo was ze aanhanger van de evolutietheorie van Darwin (gepubliceerd in 1859), en beschouwde ze het als vanzelfsprekend dat de toenmalige (nogal oorlogszuchtige) mens zou evolueren tot een meer vredelievende mens.
About Bertha von Suttner
In 1905 Bertha von Suttner was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, thus being the second female Nobel laureate after Marie Curie’s 1903 award. Suttner was born in Prague.
As a child, she learnt several languages, was interested in music, and travelled a lot. To make a living, she had to work as a governess to the wealthy Suttner family from 1873. She became engaged to the Suttners’ youngest son, engineer and novelist Arthur Gundaccar Freiherr von Suttner (1850–1902), but his family opposed the match, and she was dismissed. At the intercession of her former employers, she answered an advertisement from Alfred Nobel (1833–1896) in 1876 to become his secretary-housekeeper at his Paris residence. However, she only stayed two weeks before returning to Vienna and secretly marrying Arthur on 12 June 1876, whereupon her bride groom was immediately disinherited.
Bertha and Arthur left Austria and at the invitation of Princess Ekaterine Dadiani of Mingrelia for the next eight years moved to Georgia in Russia, where the couple lived under difficult conditions in Tbilisi (Tiflis). Both earned their living by writing easy read novels and translations. Their German rendering of the Georgian national epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin remained unfinished. After her husband had published several reports from the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78, Suttner too, under a pseudonym, began a journalistic career writing short stories and essays on the Georgian country and its people, which appeared in several Austrian newspapers.
In 1889 Suttner became a leading figure in the peace movement with the publication of her pacifist novel, Die Waffen nieder! (“Lay Down Your Arms!”), which made her one of the leading figures of the Austrian peace movement. The book was published in 37 editions and translated into 12 languages. She witnessed the foundation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and called for the establishment of the Austrian Gesellschaft der Friedensfreunde pacifist organization in a 1891 Neue Freie Presse editorial. Suttner became chairwoman and also founded the German Peace Society the next year. She gained international repute as editor of the international pacifist journal Die Waffen nieder!, named after her book, from 1892 to 1899. In 1897 she presented Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria with a list of signatures urging the establishment of an International Court of Justice and took part in the organisation of the First Hague Conventions in 1899, however, she had to realize that her ambitious expectations were belied.
Though her personal contact with Alfred Nobel had been brief, she corresponded with him until his death in 1896, and it is believed that she was a major influence in his decision to include a peace prize among those prizes provided in his will, which she received in the fifth term on 10 December 1905. The bestowal took place on 18 April 1906 in Kristiania.
In 1907 Suttner attended the Second Hague Peace Conference, which however mainly negotiated on aspects of law of war. On the eve of World War I, she continued to advise against international armament. In 1911 she became a member of the advisory council of the Carnegie Peace Foundation. On 21 June 1914, a few weeks before war broke out, she succumbed to cancer. She had planned to attend the next Universal Peace Congress, which was scheduled to take place in Vienna in the autumn.
In the comprehensive socio-cultural debate of her day, Suttner’s pacifism was influenced by the writings of Immanuel Kant, Henry Thomas Buckle, Herbert Spencer, Charles Darwin and Leo Tolstoy (Tolstoy praised Die Waffen nieder!)