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Alva Myrdal Biography

Myrdal, Alva (Biographical Paper)
1902 – 1986

Sociologist, stateswoman, and peace reformer, born in Uppsala, Sweden. She studied at the universities of Uppsala, Stockholm, and Geneva, and married Gunnar Myrdal. She was director of the UN department of social sciences (1950--6), and Swedish ambassador to India, Burma, and Ceylon (1955--61). Elected to parliament in 1962, she acted as Swedish representative on the UN Disarmament Committee (1962--73). As minister for disarmament and Church affairs (1966--73), she played a prominent part in the international peace movement. She was awarded the 1980 Albert Einstein Peace Prize, and in 1982 shared the Nobel Peace Prize. (äl´vä mir´däl, Swed. mür´däl) , 1902-86, Swedish sociologist, diplomat, and political leader. As a sociologist in the 1930s, she initiated a national program establishing state responsibility for child care. She actively participated in the United Nations as head of the department of social welfare (1949-50) and as director of the department of social sciences of UNESCO (1950-56). She was ambassador (1955-61) to India, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Nepal. After she served as a member of Sweden's parliament (1962-70), she led Sweden's delegation to the UN Disarmament Conference in Geneva (1962-73) and was minister of disarmament and church affairs (1967-73). For her work in the nuclear disarmament movement, she won the 1982 Nobel Peace Prize. Her writings include The Game of Disarmament (1976) and War, Weapons and Everyday Violence (1977). She was married to Gunnar Myrdal. Internationally acclaimed for her contribution to world peace, Alva Myrdal's personal life (1902-1986) was a series of battles--against her rural Swedish parents, her husband, her children, her reputation, and in her personal quest to find out ``How do I become myself?'' Such ironies abound in this tactful and poignant memoir by her daughter (Philosophy/Brandeis; A Strategy for Peace, 1989, etc.). ``Serving'' her demanding, egocentric, and volatile husband, Gunnar (her ``consort battleship,'' as she called him), who won the Nobel prize in Economics, Alva often left their three children for long periods of time with various surrogates, damaging them but mostly damaging her relationship with them. Still, she longed for the children she could not care for, designed a family home that isolated the parents, taught educational theory she did not follow. Her children--disheveled, neglected, drifting--parented themselves. Jan, the son, a talented writer, ultimately rejected his parents, publishing a scathing attack on his mother just as she was to receive the Nobel Peace...

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