Alva Myrdal: The Passionate Mind
Published to great acclaim in Sweden, Yvonne Hirdman's biography of Alva Myrdal is an intimate, rounded portrait of one of the great women of the twentieth century. The scholarly partner and wife of Gunnar Myrdal, author of An American Dilemma and Asian Dreams, Alva Myrdal was an innovative social scientist and thinker in her own right. She helped to lay the intellectual foundations of Sweden's social welfare state, pioneered innovative pedagogical programs and techniques, and developed an expertise in human rights that led her to become an international ambassador for the United Nations and Sweden. Alva assisted Jewish refugees during and after World War II, created a non-governmental organization for early childhood education, worked with UNESCO, and was an international advocate for women's equality and personal development. Ultimately she was appointed by the Swedish government as ambassador to India and led the Swedish delegation to the eighteen-nation UN Disarmament Conference in Geneva. Her extensive disarmament efforts won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982. At the same time, she struggled with many of the issues that women still find challenging: how to combine home and family life, with the desire to contribute to the common good. Her relationship with Gunnar Myrdal was an ongoing folie a deux, a true gender drama, with Gunnar in the leading role and Alva the constant other, trying to cope with love and life from this inferior position. Alva Myrdal's published work and the choices she made in her life spoke to the tensions that these conflicts produced and to the several ways she tried to reconcile them. Here is a remarkable and dramatic story that transcends borders and has particular resonance today.
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