Setsuko Thurlow

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Setsuko Thurlow
Setsuko Thurlow on 27 October 2017.jpg
Setsuko Thurlow on 27 October 2017
Born Setsuko Nakamura
(1932-01-03) January 3, 1932 (age 86)

Setsuko Thurlow (サーロー 節子, Sārō Setsuko, born 3 January 1932), born Setsuko Nakamura (中村 節子, Nakamura Setsuko), is a Japanese–Canadian nuclear disarmament campaigner who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. She was approximately 1.8 kilometres from the hypocentre of the blast. Eight of her family members and 351 of her schoolmates and teachers died in the attack.


Thurlow is a leading figure in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”. Thurlow accepted the prize on behalf of the campaign at a ceremony in Oslo on 10 December 2017, together with Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN.[1]

As an undergraduate, Setsuko studied English literature and education at Hiroshima Jogakuin University before moving to the United States, where she studied sociology at Lynchburg College in Virginia. In 1955, she married Canadian national Jim Thurlow, a historian, and together they set up their home in Toronto.

Up until his death in 2011, Jim was Setsuko’s main supporter and confidant throughout more than half a century’s activism against nuclear weapons. He helped her to organize events and found various anti-nuclear groups. They had two children together and two grandchildren.

Setsuko obtained a master's degree in social work from the University of Toronto and had an illustrious career spanning two decades. In 2006, she was made a member of the Order of Canada for her outstanding contributions to social work and her tireless efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Her anti-nuclear activism began in earnest in 1954, following the detonation of a hydrogen bomb code-named “Castle Bravo” at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, dispersing radioactive fallout far and wide. This US weapon was vastly more powerful than the one that had levelled her city a decade earlier.

In 1974, deeply concerned that the public had started to forget about the devastating impact of the atomic bombings, Setsuko established the activist organization Hiroshima Nagasaki Relived. She worked with like-minded people – scholars, artists, lawyers and teachers – to educate and mobilize the public.

Since then, she has travelled to dozens of countries to share her testimony of survival and alert people to the grave threat that nuclear weapons pose to all humanity, inspiring them to take action. She has been part of several global voyages of Peace Boat, a Japanese ocean liner that actively promotes nuclear disarmament.

Her many speeches at the United Nations have brought diplomats to tears and strengthened their personal resolve to eliminate the nuclear menace. Her many presentations at schools, as part of the New York-based Hibakusha Stories project, have had a profound impact on the lives of thousands of students.

For her work to achieve a more peaceful and just world, she has received numerous honours, including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Award in 2012. The city of Hiroshima designated her a “peace ambassador” in 2014, and the Arms Control Association named her “arms control person of the year” for 2015.