Setsuko Thurlow was born, raised and educated in Hiroshima, Japan until graduation from Hiroshima Jogakuin University in 1954. She continued her education at Lynchburg College in Virginia and The University of Toronto, receiving a Master of Social Work.
Her professional career includes teaching and practicing social work in Japan, practicing social work with the YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto, the Hugh McMillan Centre, and the Toronto District School Board. She ultimately founded an independent and community based agency, Japanese Family Services of Metropolitan Toronto, for mostly Japanese speaking newcomers from Japan. She contributed to develop the theory and practice of social work in a multicultural society through university curriculum development, through professional social work and mental health organizations, the East Asian Family Services Agency Coalition and the Social Planning Council of Metropolitan Toronto.
Her childhood experience of the massive human suffering and devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima undoubtedly led her to decide to serve society through the profession of social work. She dedicated most of her adult life to the mission of the abolition of nuclear weapons which has taken her around the world. The Japanese government recently appointed her as a Special Communicator for the World Without Nuclear Weapons, and to address the United Nations General Assembly First Committee.
Honours received include Woman of Distinction from the YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto, Alumnus of Distinction from Lynchburg College of Virginia, official recognition from the Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, commendation from the Government of Japan, and The Order of Canada.
She continues to be active in disarmament education, both locally and internationally.