Women’s History~ Emily Greene Balch


Emily Greene Balch


Emily Greene Balch, peace advocate, feminist, social reformer, economist, educator, social worker, researcher, author, internationalist, journalist and Nobel Laureate, was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts on January 8, 1867. She graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1889 and studied political science at the Sorbonne during 1890 to 1891 and taught at Wellesley College from 1896 to 1918. A friend and colleague of women such as Jane Addams and Vida Scudder, she was active in the Woman’s Peace Party and was one of the founders of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) where she served for some years as one of the executive officers. Out of deeply-held personal convictions she became a Quaker in 1921. In 1926 she investigated conditions in Haiti and published an expose of problems there, many caused by repeated interventions by the United States. Always politically astute, Ms Balch encouraged the United States in 1939 to accept a large number of refugees fleeing conditions in Germany. During the Second World War she opposed the internment of Japanese Americans and advocated for fair treatment. In 1955 she reached out to the people of China via a poem addressed to them. A co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, she said in her acceptance, “I am hoping that 1946 will mark a turning point in the age-old effort to rid the world of war, to national disarmament, to renunciation of power politics, and to development of international trusteeship, not only for dependent peoples, but for regions and interests which are essentially supranational in character, such as the Polar regions and the main waterways of the world . . .” She donated her prize money to the WILPF.


In her Nobel Lecture which she delivered on April 7, 1948, Ms Balch declared, “As the world community develops in peace, it will open up great untapped reservoirs in human nature. Like a spring released from pressure would be the response of a generation of young men and women growing up in an atmosphere of friendliness and security, in a world demanding their service, offering them comradeship, calling to all adventurous and forward reaching natures. We are not asked to subscribe to any utopia or to believe in a perfect world just around the comer. We are asked to be patient with necessarily slow and groping advance on the road forward, and to be ready for each step ahead as it becomes practicable. We are asked to equip ourselves with courage, hope, readiness for hard work, and to cherish large and generous ideals.”

Zurich Congress Session, 1919

Zurich Congress Session, 1919

Emily Greene Balch died in Cambridge Massachusetts, on January 9, 1961, a day after her 94th birthday. On her life and work, see: Emily Greene Balch: the Long Road to Internationalism (2010) by Kristen E Gwinn; Champions for Peace: Women Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize (2006) by Judith Hicks Stiehm; Vote and Voice: Women’s Organizations and Political Literacy, 1915– 1930 (2004) by Wendy B Sharer; Pioneers for Peace: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915– 1965 (2nd ed. 1980) by Gertrude Bussey and Margaret Tims; Beyond Nationalism: the Social Thought of Emily Greene Balch (1972) edited by Mercedes M Randall; For Peace and Justice: Pacifism in America, 1914– 1941 (1971) by Charles Chatfield; Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch (1964) by Mercedes M Randall; The Miracle of Living (1941) by Emily Greene Balch; Women at the Hague: the International Congress of Women and its Results (1915) by Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch and Alice Hamilton


Balch, circa 1899

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: