Setsuko Thurlow was born in Hiroshima, Japan on January 3, 1932, and was educated at Hiroshima Jogakuin University, Hiroshima (BA), the University of Lynchburg, Virginia (BA), and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Social Work (BSW and MSW). Upon graduation from U of T, she returned to Japan with her husband, both of whom were commissioned by the United Church of Canada as educational missionaries. She lectured at the Tokyo Family Court Training Institute and, later, at Kwansei Gakuin University.
Since 1962 Ms Thurlow has lived and worked in Toronto. She was Associate Director of the Northeastern Area YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto; Coordinator of the Parent Education Program at the Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital; and school social worker with the Toronto Board of Education. She has also acted as a field instructor for graduate students in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
Ms Thurlow’s professional activities include serving on the boards of the Ontario Association of Professional Social Workers (Toronto Branch); the American Orthopsychiatric Association (New York); the Yorkville Health Centre (Toronto); the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto; and the University of Toronto Alumni Association. Her social work practice culminated in the founding of Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto. JFSMT was established in 1990 in response to the unmet needs of the Japanese ethno-cultural community for equitable accessibility to professional, culturally and linguistically appropriate family services. It is an active member of the Multicultural Coalition of Family Services Agencies of Metropolitan Toronto.
Setsuko Thurlow is a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and she has been engaged in educating the public and actively advocating for nuclear disarmament throughout her life. Over the years, the scope of her efforts has expanded from the local to the global level. Among her many accolades, she was appointed to the Order of Canada, and received commendation from the Japanese Government. She is a recipient of the 2015 Arms Control Person of the Year (Arms Control Association, Washington, DC); the Distinguished Peace Leadership Award (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, California); and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace (London, UK). She has been named Peace Ambassador (University for Peace, San Jose, Costa Rica) and Hiroshima Peace Ambassador. In 2017, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, and in 2018, she received honorary degrees from her alma mater, the University of Lynchburg, and the University of Waterloo.