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The baroness Bertha von Suttner was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1905. She was born Bertha Kinsky in 1843 in Prague. Her family was aristocratic, yet broke. Since she did not marry young, she decided to try and support herself financially, at the late age of 30, by becoming a nanny and a teacher to the four young girls of the Von Suttner baron family in Vienna. The girls liked their opinionated teacher, yet the youngest son and the family’s heir, who was seven years younger than Bertha, was particularly interested and infatuated with her.  Bertha had no dowry; therefore, his family disapproved of the marriage. Devastated, they broke up, and as a result, Bertha had to find a new job – working as a secretary to the inventor of the dynamite – Alfred Nobel.

Nobel, the lonely bachelor, found a good companion in Bertha, and they may have even had a short romance. Don’t worry, this is not why she got a Noble Prize years later. The collaboration between Nobel and Bertha was short-lived as young Von Suttner did not want to give up his love. The two got married without his family’s approval and relocated to Georgia, where they were struggling to make ends meet as teachers and writers. Only in 1885 did the von Suttner family approve their marriage, and they could go back to Vienna.

While still in Georgia, Bertha started advocating for world peace in full power. In Bertha’s vision, life in the modern world was sacred, and there was no need for violent and immoral acts. She founded the peace associations, was an active participant in peace conferences worldwide, phrased peace treaties, and tried to initiate a court for world peace. She wrote many articles for the papers, such as “Neue Freie Presse”, an all too familiar paper thanks to Herzl (Bertha knew Herzl and was very enthusiastic about the Zionist idea). She even founded her own paper. Von Suttner was also a creative author, who published in 1889 the pacifistic romance “Lay down your arms”, the story of a woman through four wars. The book was a huge international success, and Tolstoy called it “The uncle Tom’s cabin of the peace warriors”.

Bertha kept in good contact with Alfred Nobel, and it is plausible that her letters had influenced him to include the Peace Nobel Prize within the list of Nobel prizes to be given after his death. As mentioned earlier, Bertha was awarded the Peace Nobel Prize in 1905, but she had not rested on her laurels and kept on working hard to promote world peace until her death on June 21st, 1914.

Only seven days after her death, the shooting in Sarajevo that had started the blood bath of the first world war, occurred. The first world war led to the even worse second world war. Though these two wars happened, her work has not gone down the drain, as her ideas slowly started sinking into people’s minds. Wilson, the president of the United States, might have failed to end all wars with the treaty of Versailles in 1919, but he did establish “the League of Nations”. While this institute did not prevent the second world war, it was the first step in creating the UN, which may have prevented a few conflicts here and there.

 

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