Betty Williams (Nobel laureate)
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Betty Williams in 1976
22 May 1943 |
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Employer||Nova Southeastern University|
|Known for||Community of Peace People|
|Spouse(s)||Ralph Williams, James Perkins|
|Awards||Nobel Prize, 1976|
Betty Williams (born 22 May 1943) in the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, is a co-recipient with Mairead Corrigan of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her work as a cofounder of Community of Peace People, an organisation dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to The Troubles in Northern Ireland. She heads the Global Children's Foundation and is the President of the World Centre of Compassion for Children International. She is also the Chair of Institute for Asian Democracy in Washington D.C. and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Nova Southeastern University. In 2006, Williams was one of the founders of the Nobel Women's Initiative along with sister Nobel Peace Laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Jody Williams and Rigoberta Menchu Tum. Six women representing North America and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa decided to bring together their experiences in a united effort for peace with justice and equality. It is the goal of the Nobel Women's Initiative to help strengthen work being done in support of women's rights around the world.
Betty Williams was drawn into the public arena after witnessing the death of three children on 10 August 1976, when they were hit by a car whose driver, an IRA fugitive named Danny Lennon, was fatally shot by British authorities. Williams was driving in her car with one of her children when she heard gunfire. She turned the corner to her street, saw the three Maguire children and rushed to help. Their mother, Anne Maguire, who was with them, eventually committed suicide in 1980 after a failed attempt to start a new life in New Zealand.
Within two days of the tragic event, Williams had obtained 6,000 signatures on a petition for peace and gained media attention. Together with Mairead Corrigan, Anne Maguire's sister, she co-founded the Women for Peace which later, with co-founder Ciaran McKeown became The Community for Peace People.
The two organised a peace march to the graves of the children, which was attended by 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women – the peaceful march was disrupted by members of the Irish Republican Army, who accused them of being "dupes of the British". The following week, Williams and Corrigan again led a march – this time with 35,000 participants.
On 13 August, late, they met McKeown, who joined the two women in founding the Peace People. McKeown wrote the original Declaration and organised the rally supporting it.
Declaration of the Peace People
First Declaration of the Peace People
- We have a simple message to the world from this movement for Peace.
- We want to live and love and build a just and peaceful society.
- We want for our children, as we want for ourselves, our lives at home, at work, and at play to be lives of joy and Peace.
- We recognise that to build such a society demands dedication, hard work, and courage.
- We recognise that there are many problems in our society which are a source of conflict and violence.
- We recognise that every bullet fired and every exploding bomb make that work more difficult.
- We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and all the techniques of violence.
- We dedicate ourselves to working with our neighbours, near and far, day in and day out, to build that peaceful society in which the tragedies we have known are a bad memory and a continuing warning.
Nobel Peace Prize
Subsequent to that dramatic display of support for peace, Williams and Corrigan became the joint recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 (the prize for 1976).
In her acceptance speech, Williams said,
"That first week will always be remembered of course for something else besides the birth of the Peace People. For those most closely involved, the most powerful memory of that week was the death of a young republican and the deaths of three children struck by the dead man's car. A deep sense of frustration at the mindless stupidity of the continuing violence was already evident before the tragic events of that sunny afternoon of August 10, 1976. But the deaths of those four young people in one terrible moment of violence caused that frustration to explode, and create the possibility of a real peace movement...As far as we are concerned, every single death in the last eight years, and every death in every war that was ever fought represents life needlessly wasted, a mother's labour spurned".
Although Williams had initially indicated she would donate her half of the prize money to the cause of supporting the Peace People, upon being asked to do so she declined. "I've changed my mind," she told co-laureate Mairead Maguire and Peace People colleague Ciaran McKeown. "I have a wee project of my own which I want to back with my half," she explained.
At the time she received the Nobel Prize, she was working as a receptionist and raising the two children she had with Ralph Williams. After they divorced, she married James Perkins in 1982, and lived with him in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida in the United States. She toured and lectured extensively, taking the Nobel Peace Prize with her, so others could see it.
Her son Paul became a professional footballer playing for Newport County, Sheffield United, Hartlepool United, Stockport County, West Bromwich Albion and Rochdale. He made one appearance for Northern Ireland.
Since winning the Nobel Peace Prize Williams has received the People's Peace Prize of Norway in 1976, the Schweitzer Medallion for Courage, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award in 1984, and the Frank Foundation Child Care International Oliver Award. In 1995 she was awarded the Rotary Club International "Paul Harris Fellowship: and the Together for Peace Building Award.
Comments on George W. Bush
On 24 July 2006, while delivering a speech at the Earth Dialogue forums, Williams told school children at the Brisbane City Hall, "I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence,' because I don't believe that I am non-violent." Decrying the deaths of innocent children in wartime, she went on to say,
"Right now, I would love to kill George Bush. I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die, the anger in me is just beyond belief. It's our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life."
In a keynote speech at the International Women's Peace Conference on 11 July 2007, Ms. Williams told a crowd of about 1,000: "Right now, I could kill George Bush," she said at the Adam's Mark Hotel and Conference Center in Dallas, Texas. "No, I don't mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that." Williams later apologised for the remarks.
Talks and Guest Lectures
From 17–20 September 2007, Williams taught an intensive course at Soka University of America entitled "Peace Is Action, Not Words." On 18 September, Mrs. Williams presented a lecture to the university community, entitled "Peace in the World Is Everybody's Business." On 20 September, she gave a lecture open to 2,232 members of the general public, including 1,100 high school sophomores.
Speaking at the University of Bradford before an audience of 200 in March 2011, Williams warned that young Muslim women on campus were vulnerable to attacks from angry family members, while the university does little to help protect them. "If you had someone on this campus these young women could go to say, 'I am frightened' – if you are not doing that here, you are dehumanising them by not helping these young women, don't you think?"
In pop culture
Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan were also the subject of a French song, "Deux Femmes à Dublin", sung by French Pied Noir singer Enrico Macias.
- Nobel Peace Laureates Conference | 1998
- Peace People History[dead link]
- The Peace People Declaration
- Gifts of Speech – Betty Williams
- Stiehm, Judith (2006). Champions for Peace: Women Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 77. ISBN 978-0-7425-4026-2.
- "Peace prize winner 'could kill' Bush". Retrieved 7 December 2010.
- Hohmann, James (13 July 2007). "Nobel winner apologizes for Bush comment". The Dallas Morning News (Dallas, TX).
- Greenhalf, Jim (4 March 2011). "Bradford University is told it must do more to stop attacks on the vulnerable Muslim women". Telegraph & Argus (Newsquest). Retrieved 10 March 2011. "Bradford University was challenged to do more to help protect vulnerable young Muslim women from angry family members."
- Nobel Committee information on 1976 Peace Laureates
- http://lectures.syr.edu/betty-jody-williams – brief bio
- [dead link] – A biography of Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams
- Peace People in NI – a socialist position
- Irish Nobel Prize winners
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