Bertha von Suttner (b. Prague, Czech Republic, 9 June 1843 – d. 21 June 1914, Vienna, Austria) was an Austrian-Bohemian pacifist and novelist. In 1905, she was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the very first Austrian laureate.
Thanks to her cousin, Suttner was introduced to philosophy and literature, and her readings and lessons by her tutors allowed her to master several tongues, notably French, Italian and English. As a governess for the daughters of Karl, Freiherr von Suttner in the Suttner household, she fell in love with the girls’ brother, Arthur, who was seven years younger than her. Since the von Suttner family disapproved of their union, the mother fired her and found her an employment as Alfred Nobel’s private secretary and housekeeper in Paris. They became friends, but despite the rumours of romantic relationship between them, Bertha remained committed to Arthur, whom she married secretly in 1876 in Vienna. The newlywed couple then migrated to western Georgia in the Russian Empire, near the Black Sea. She kept corresponding with Nobel until he died in 1896, and she is believed to have been of great influence about introducing a peace prize among the Nobel prizes.
In 1889, she published her pacifist novel, Die Waffen nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!), in which she described the war from the point of view of a woman. This novel was a success, and made her one of the leading figures of the Austrian peace movement. After her husband’s death in 1902, she moved back to Vienna. In 1904 she spoke at the International Congress of Women in Berlin and for seven months travelled around the United States, attending a universal peace congress in Boston and meeting President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
The monument, named Die Waffen nieder (The Arms Down) after her famous novel, shows a desperate mother who raises her folded hands and begs to lay down the weapons. Behind her, her two frightened children are hiding.
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