Bertha von Suttner

Bertha von Suttner

[zoot-ner, soot-; Ger. zoot-nuhr]

Bertha Felicitas Sophie Freifrau von Suttner (Baroness Bertha von Suttner), born 9 June 1843 in Prague (now Czech Republic) as Gräfin (Countess) Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau, died 21 June 1914 in Vienna (Austria), was an Austrian novelist, radical (i.e. organizational) pacifist, and the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Suttner was the daughter of an impoverished Austrian Field Marshal, Franz-Josef Graf Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau (October 12 1768January 4 1843), and wife, married on July 26 1834, Sophie von Körner (January 11 1815March 26 1884), and governess to the wealthy Suttner family from 1873. She had an older brother, Arthur Franz Graf Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau (April 17 1837May 29 1906), who died unmarried and childless. She became engaged to engineer and novelist Arthur Gundaccar Freiherr von Suttner (died December 10, 1902), but her family opposed the match, and she answered an advertisement from Alfred Nobel in 1876 to become his secretary-housekeeper at his Paris residence. She only remained a week before returning to Vienna and secretly marrying Arthur on June 12 1876.

Suttner became a leading figure in the peace movement with the publication of her novel, Die Waffen nieder! (Lay Down Your Arms!) in 1889 and founded an Austrian pacifist organization in 1891. She gained international repute as editor of the international pacifist journal Die Waffen nieder!, named for her book, from 1892 to 1899. Her pacifism was influenced by the writings of Henry Thomas Buckle, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Darwin. 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 won in 1905.

The film Die Waffen nieder by Holger Madsen and Carl Theodor Dreyer was made by Nordisk Films Kompagni in 1914. She is depicted on the Austrian 2 euro coin, and was pictured on the old Austrian 1000 schilling bank note.

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