Mairead Maguire

Born:January 27, 1944 (age 80)

Mairead Maguire is a peace activist from Northern Ireland and a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with Betty Williams in 1976 for their work as co-founders of the Women for Peace, which later became the Community for Peace People, an organization dedicated to encouraging a peaceful resolution to violence in Northern Ireland.

Maguire was born on January 27, 1944, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She attended a private Catholic school until the age of 14, after which her family could not afford the tuition. After working as a babysitter, she enrolled in business classes, and at age 16, began work as an accounting clerk at a factory. At age 21, she began work as a secretary for the Guinness brewery, where she worked until December 1976.

In August 1976, three of her sister's children were hit and killed by a car driven by an IRA fugitive who was had been pursued and shot by British authorities. Betty Williams witnessed the accident and within two days had obtained 6,000 signatures on a petition for peace, gaining wide media attention. She and Williams co-founded the Women for Peace and organized a peace march to the graves of the children that was attended by 10,000 Protestant and Catholic women, and were attacked by members of the IRA. The following week, they led another peace march with 35,000 participants, with no incidents. For the next six months, they organized weekly peace rallies throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom that were attended by thousands of people, mostly women. During that period, there was a 70% decrease in the rate of violence. In recognition of their efforts, Williams and Maguire became joint recipients of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize.

After winning the Nobel Prize, Maguire continued her involvement with the Community for Peace People, which now addresses social and political issues around the world. In 1981, she co-founded the Committee on the Administration of Justice, a human rights organization. A graduate of the Irish School of Ecumenics, she works with inter-church and interfaith organizations in Northern Ireland and around the world. In 2006, she and five other Nobel laureates - Shirin Ebadi, Jody Williams, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, and Williams - created the Nobel Women's Initiative to promote peace, justice and equality for women.