Women in History – 25 September

25 September 2011 – Wangari Muta Maathai, Kenyan political and environmental activist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2004

Wangari Muta Maathai (1 April 1940 – 25 September 2011) was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She was educated in the United States at Mount St. Scholastica (Benedictine College) and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

In the 1970s, Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental non-governmental organization focused on the planting of trees, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. In 1986, she was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, and in 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace”. Maathai was an elected member of Parliament and served as assistant minister for Environment and Natural Resources in the government of President Mwai Kibaki between January 2003 and November 2005. She was an Honorary Councilor of the World Future Council. In 2011, Maathai died of complications from ovarian cancer.