Myrdal, Alva

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Authorized form of name

Myrdal, Alva

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Other form(s) of name

  • Reimer, Alva

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Description area

Dates of existence

1902-01-31 - 1986-02-01


Alva Myrdal, was born Alva Reimer on 31 January 1902 in Uppsala, Sweden. She pursued her higher education first in Sweden, earning a Bachelor of Arts from Stockholm University in 1924 and a Master of Arts at Uppsala University in 1934. She undertook postgraduate work at Columbia University in New York and at the Université de Genève.

Myrdal began her career at the Teacher Workers Education Association in Stockholm from 1924 to 1932. She then worked as a psychological assistant at the Central Prison from 1932 to 1934. Myrdal founded a training college for preschool teachers, Social-Pedagogiska Seminarist, in Stockholm, and served as its Director from 1936 to 1948. Beginning in 1938, Myrdal was also engaged by the Swedish Government for various public enquiries, for preparing new social legislation and for planning a new educational system.

In 1948, Myrdal was engaged as a Consultant in UNESCO’s Section for Mass Communication, Projects Division. The following year Myrdal accepted the post of Top Ranking (Principal) Director of the United Nations Department of Social Affairs. However, in 1950, Myrdal began work at UNESCO as staff on loan from the UN in New York. She assumed the title of Director of the UNESCO Social Science Department 28 August 1950. Myrdal was officially transferred to UNESCO effective 1 January 1951. She resigned from UNESCO effective 31 October 1955 so that she could accept diplomatic postings.

After her career at UNESCO, Myrdal served first as Swedish Ambassador to India and Minister to Ceylon from 1955 to 1961. She was further appointed Minister to Burma from 1955 to 1958, and then Minister to Nepal from 1960 to 1961. Myrdal acted as Ambassador-at-large in the period 1961-1966. In 1962, she was appointed Swedish delegate to the UN Disarmament Conference, Geneva. Also that year, Myrdal was voted in as a member of the Swedish Parliament. She was appointed Cabinet Minister responsible for disarmament in 1966; responsibility for church affairs was added to her portfolio in 1969. In 1966, Myrdal, as chair of a Swedish Royal Commission, proposed the founding of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Myrdal also served as Swedish Delegate to the UN General Assembly from 1962 to 1973. She was chairman of the UN Security Council group of experts who reported on problems of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa in 1964 and the UN Group of Governmental Experts on the Relationship between Disarmament and Development in 1972.

Among her many publications are the books: Crisis in the Population Problem (with Gunnar Myrdal), 1934; City Children, 1935; Are We Too Many, 1950; Women’s Two Roles (with Viola Kline), 1968; The Game of Disarmament: How the United States and Russia Run the Arms Race, 1972; War, Weapons and Everyday Violence, 1977; and, Dynamics of European Nuclear Disarmament, 1981. Among other honours, she was co-recipient with Alfonso García Robles of Mexico of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1982.

Alva Myrdal died 1 February 1986.


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Functions, occupations and activities

  • Consultant, Mass Communication Section, Projects Division, 1948.
  • Director, Social Science Department, 1950-1955

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UNESCO. Department of Social Sciences (1948-1974)

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Created by AWT 03/05/2011.




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