Scope and Contents
The Bertha von Suttner Papers consist of biographical information, writings by and about Suttner, correspondence and diaries. The bulk of the collection consists of photocopies of material for which the originals are in European archives; unfortunately, the photocopies are often difficult to decipher.
Bertha von Suttner was born Bertha Sophia Felicita, Countess Kinsky von Chinic und Tettau in 1843, in Prague. Her father was Count Franz Joseph Kinsky (who died shortly before Bertha was born), was a field marshall and chamberlain to Austria's Emperor, Franz Joseph I. Though the family was impoverished, Bertha was well-read. She was educated at home by governesses and was proficient in languages. An exceptional pianist, Bertha studied voice in Paris, Baden-Baden and Milan. However, by the time she was in her early 30s, Bertha decided to find a job to support herself. She was hired in 1873 by Baron Karl von Suttner as governess to his four daughters. It was there that she met the Baron's son, Arthur Gundaccar. They fell in love and wished to marry, but both families opposed it, and Bertha was forced to find other work. She answered an advertisement from Alfred Nobel in Paris, who, in the autumn of 1875, was looking for a secretary and manager of his household. Nobel was a multi-millionaire from his discovery and manufacture of dynamite, but he was also a humanitarian who promoted many good causes.
Von Suttner's position with Nobel lasted less than two weeks as she decided she could not live without Arthur. They were married secretly on June 12, 1876 and moved to the Caucasus. Over the next few years they eked out a living at various jobs, at the same time enriching their intellectual life by reading widely in science, philosophy and history. During this time the von Suttners wrote and had published six novels, as well as a number of articles. In 1885, Arthur and Bertha were reconciled with his family and were offered a permanent suite in the von Suttner castle in Vienna.
It was during a visit to Paris in 1887, that Bertha learned for the first time of the International Peace and Arbitration Association, based in London. The goal of this organization was the establishment of an international court of arbitration. Bertha promptly joined the Association and became its leading spokesperson. In the hopes of reaching a wider audience, she researched war, talking to army surgeons, field officers and others who graphically described the grim realities of its battles and aftermath. Von Suttner used this material in her 1891 novel Lay Down Your Arms. It's definite anti-war themes shocked her contemporaries, but it also received wide popular acclaim in many countries. Bertha published a manifesto in 1891 which attracted the attention of many peace sympathizers, and led to the formation of the Austrian Peace Society. She also helped establish the German Peace Association, the International Peace Bureau in Geneva in 1893, and the Hungarian Peace Society in 1896. Von Suttner is credited with being the first woman political journalist in the German language. Also, in 1899 she held a salon in conjunction with the First Hague Peace Conference (Netherlands), in which peace advocates convinced delegates to make establishing structures for resolving international conflict their primary concern.
For many years, Bertha corresponded with, and visited, Alfred Nobel. She urged him to support the goals of inernational arbitration by establishing a prize for peace. This led to his endowment for prizes to be given each year for achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature, and for work toward peace. Berthaherself was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1905.
Bertha von Suttner died on June 21,1914, one week before the outbreak of the First World War.