Born In: Uppsala, Sweden
Died On: 1st February, 1986
Career: Sociologist and Politician
Alva Myrdal, a native of Sweden, was a great socialist and a political worker who contributed her entire life towards the betterment of society. She was a major influence in the promotion of social welfare in her hometown. She was of the belief that the youth is the future of the society and that the local government should take steps to educate, safeguard and empower the youth and turn them into individuals that can bring about a change in the society. Alva used both her experience in the educational field and her political influence to fulfill her dream to improve the educational and societal framework. Post the World War she focused more on international issues and took up responsibilities like heading the United Nations section on ‘welfare policy’ and then directing UNESCO’s department of social sciences. Go through the article to learn about the profile, childhood, life and timeline of Alva Myrdal.
Alva Reimer Myrdal was born on 31st of January 1902 in Uppsala, Sweden. She was one of the five children born to middle-class parents Albert and Larsson Reimer. Her father was a building contractor and was also involved in local politics. He was a steadfast social democrat whom Myrdal admired. Myrdal had a complex relationship with her mother though. Alva Myrdal learnt and gained the desire to contribute to the betterment of society from both her parents. Alva Myrdal was an intelligent child who went to attend the University of Stockholm, where she earned her B.A. degree in Scandinavian languages and literature and the history of religion in 1924.
After her marriage, both Alva and her husband moved to the United States in the year 1929 on Rockefeller fellowships. In the U.S., Alva pursued her interest in education by studying the nation’s experimental schools, particularly a program of early education administrated by Yale University professor Arnold Gessel. With an inspiration to study further, Alva returned to Sweden a year later to attend the University of Geneva from 1930-31, ultimately transferring her credits toward a master's degree in social psychology at the University of Uppsala. Together with her husband, Alva made a major contribution in the 1930’s in promoting social welfare. They were joint authors of a book entitled “Crisis in the Population Question ", and she was also actively engaged in the discussion on housing and school problems.
After graduating from the University, Alva worked as a teacher in Stockholm and then in 1932 she managed a job of an assistant psychologist at the city’s central prison. She returned to the field of education after three years and established a preschool teacher’s training college, ‘The Social Pedagogical Institute’ of which she was the director until 1948. She believed strongly that the state should take steps to uplift the younger generation of society, and that teachers should not only be the propagators of facts but should also be well versed with developmental and behavioral psychology.
She was a prominent member of the Social Democrat Party in Sweden, and in 1943, was appointed to that party's committee with the task of drafting a post-war program. Also, in that year, she was appointed to the Government Commission on International Post-War Aid and Reconstruction. After the Second World War, Alva dedicated and devoted most of her time and energy to international questions and issues. From 1949 – 1950, she headed the UNO’s section dealing with ‘welfare policy’, and from 1950 – 1955, she held the position of the chairman of UNESCO’s ‘social science section’. She was the first woman to hold such a prominent position in the UN.
In the year 1962, Alva Myrdal was elected to the Swedish Parliament and was sent to the ‘UN disarmament conference’ in Geneva as a Swedish delegate, a role she kept until 1973. In the year 1966, she was also made a ‘consultative cabinet minister’, a post which she held until 1973. It was as a vocal supporter of disarmament that got her the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ which she shared with Alfonso Garcia Robles in the year 1982. Alva also played a leading role during the negotiations in Geneva. She emerged as the leader of the group of non-aligned nations that endeavored to put pressure on the two super-powers to show greater concern for concrete disarmament measures. "The game of disarmament", her book in which she expresses her disappointment at the reluctance of the USA and the USSR to disarm, is the product of her experience in Geneva.
Alva Myrdal combined together profound commitment with great professional insight in her work for disarmament. She familiarized herself with the scientific and technical aspects of the arms race, with the help of experts. Her understanding of the need to base the work of disarmament on professional insight also found an outlet in her active participation in the establishment of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI.
Alva got married to Gunnar Myrdal in the year 1924, same as her graduation year. She gave birth to 3 kids, Jan Myrdal, Sissela Bok and Kaj Fölster, although their marriage was not a smooth and easy one due to Gunnar’s demanding job and Alva’s desire to be both a supportive wife and responsible mother.
Alva Myrdal passed away on 1st February, 1986. The reason of her death is not known.
1902: Alva Myrdal was born
1924: Alva Myrdal graduated from University of Stockholm
1924: She married Gunnar Myrdal
1929: Alva and Gunnar Myrdal moved to the U.S.
1930-31: She attended the University of Geneva for her masters
1932: Alva worked as an assistant psychologist in the central jail
1934: Co-authored the book Crisis in the Population Question with her husband
1935: She established ‘The Social Pedagogical Institute’
1943: She got appointed to Social Democrat Party’s committee
1949-50: Headed UNO’s section dealing with ‘welfare policy’
1950-55: She held the position of the chairman of UNESCO’s ‘social science section’
1962: Alva Myrdal got elected to the Swedish Parliament and was sent to the ‘UN disarmament conference’ in Geneva as a delegate
1966: She was made a ‘consultative cabinet minister’
1982: She won the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’ for her work towards disarmament
1986: Alva Myrdal left for her heavenly abode