Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Myrdal from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

Alva Myrdal 1902–1986 née Reimer; wife of Gunnar Swed. sociologist & diplomat

Summary Article: Myrdal, Alva
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Swedish politician and prominent leader of the disarmament movement. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1982 with Mexican politician Alfonso García Robles for her lifelong commitment to disarmament.

Myrdal was active in the 1930s in bringing about the Swedish welfare state and was a staunch proponent of women's rights. She was the first woman to be appointed to a position in the United Nations Secretariat.

From 1955 to 1960 Myrdal was Swedish ambassador to India, Burma (now Myanmar), and Ceylon and in 1962 she was nominated Sweden's representative at the Geneva Disarmament Conference. She became a member of parliament that year and a member of cabinet in 1966 as minister for disarmament until 1973. She was very worried by the reluctance of the USA and the USSR to disarm, a concern which is expressed in her famous book The Game of Disarmament (1976). Other books include War, Weapons and Everyday Violence (1977). Myrdal's disarmament work combined sincere commitment with an inside knowledge of the scientific and technical aspects of the arms race gained through consulting the experts. She found an outlet for her knowledge in the establishment of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Born in Uppsala, Sweden, Myrdal graduated from the university there in 1924 and married the economist Gunnar Myrdal the same year. She went on to further studies at the universities of Stockholm and Geneva. Her early studies of population problems and economic conditions were translated as Nation and Family and Women's Two Roles (written with Vida Klein). With her husband in the 1930s she promoted social welfare in Sweden and they were joint authors of The Population in Crisis. In 1936 she founded the Social Pedagogical Institute in Stockholm of which she was director until 1948. She promoted progressive education and reforms in child care. She was also head of a government commission on women's work and chair of the Federation of Business and Professional Women. In 1949 she became principal director of the Department of Social Services at Unesco in New York.

When Myrdal failed in her nomination for the 1981 Nobel Peace Prize, there was such an outcry in Norway that a popular movement grew up and raised $60,000 to be presented to her as the Norwegian People's Prize. She also won the first Einstein Peace Prize in 1981 and, with Gunnar, the German Peace Prize in 1970, but was most proud of the Norwegian People's Prize.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Myrdal, Alva (1902 - 1986)
The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women

Alva Myrdal's work for disarmament brought her the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize, which she shared with Alfonso García Robles of...

Full text Article Myrdal, Alva (1902 - 1986)
The Blackwell Dictionary of Sociology

A Swedish-born sociologist whose work includes political science and economics, Myrdal distinguished herself through work for...

See more from Credo