Emily Greene Balch

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Emily Greene Balch
Born (1867-01-08)January 8, 1867
Boston, USA
Died January 9, 1961(1961-01-09) (aged 94)
Cambridge, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Writer, economist, professor
Known for Nobel Peace Prize in 1946

Emily Greene Balch (January 8, 1867 – January 9, 1961) was an American economist, sociologist and pacifist. Balch combined an academic career at Wellesley College with a long-standing interest in social issues such as poverty, child labor and immigration, as well as settlement work to uplift poor immigrants and reduce juvenile delinquency. She moved into the peace movement at the start of the World War I in 1914, and began collaborating with Jane Addams of Chicago. She became a central leader of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) based in Switzerland, for which she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.


Born to a prominent Yankee family near Boston, her father was a lawyer. She graduated Bryn Mawr College in 1889, reading widely in the classics and languages, and focusing on economics. She did graduate work in Paris and published her research as Public Assistance of the Poor in France (1893). She did settlement housework in Boston, but decided on an academic career. She then studied at Harvard, University Chicago, and the University of Berlin, and began teaching at Wellesley College in 1896. She focused on immigration, consumption, and the economic roles of women. She served on numerous state commissions, such as the first commission on minimum wages for women. She was a leader of the Women's Trade Union League, which supported women who belonged to labor unions. She published a major sociological study of Our Slavic Fellow Citizens in 1910. She was a longtime pacifist, and was a participant in Henry Ford's International Committee on Mediation. When the United States entered the war, she became a political activist opposing conscription in espionage legislation, and supporting the civil liberties of conscientious objectors. She collaborated with Jane Addams in the Women's Peace party, and numerous other groups.

In a letter to the president of Wellesley, she wrote we should follow "the ways of Jesus". Her spiritual thoughts were that American economy was "far from being in harmony with the principles of Jesus which we profess." [1] Wellesley College terminated her contract in 1919. Balch served as an editor of The Nation, a well-known magazine of political commentary. Balch converted from Unitarianism and became a Quaker in 1921. She stated, "Religion seems to me one of th e most interesting things in life, one of the most puzzling, richest and thrilling fields of human thought and speculation... religious experience and thought need also a light a day and sunshine and a companionable sharing with others of which it seems to me there is generally too little... The Quaker worship at its best seems to me give opportunities for this sort of sharing without profanation."[2]

Her major achievements were just beginning, as she became an American leader of the international peace movement. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for her work with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). In 1919, Balch played a central role in the International Congress of Women. It changed its name to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and was based in Geneva. She was hired by the League as its first international Secretary-Treasurer, administering the organization's activities. She helped set up summer schools on peace education, and created new branches in over 50 countries. She cooperated with the newly established League of Nations regarding drug control, aviation, refugees, and disarmament. In World War II, she favored Allied victory and did not criticize the war effort, but did support the rights of conscientious objectors.[3]

Balch never married. She died the day after her 94th birthday.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mercedes Moritz Randall, Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1946 (1964) pp. 364; 378
  2. ^ Randall, Improper Bostonian p. 60
  3. ^ Suzanne Niemeyer, editor, Research Guide to American Historical Biography: vol. IV (1990) pp 1806–1814


Further reading[edit]

  • Alonso, Harriet Hyman (1993). Peace As a Women's Issue: A History of the U.S. Movement for World Peace and Women's Rights. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0815602693. OCLC 25508750. 
  • Foster, Catherine (1989). Women for All Seasons: The Story of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 0820310921. OCLC 18051898. 
  • Gwinn, Kristen E. (2010). Emily Greene Balch: The Long Road to Internationalism. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252090158. OCLC 702844599. 
  • Nichols, Christopher McKnight (2011). Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674061187. OCLC 754841336. 
  • Randall, Mercedes M. (1964). Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch. Twayne Publishers. OCLC 779059266. , scholarly biography
  • Solomon, Barbara Miller. "Balch, Emily Greene," in Barbara Sicherman and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period, A Biographical Dictionary (1980) pp 41–45
  • Who's Who in New England, Marquis, 1916 

External links[edit]

  • Emily Green Balch biography at Nobel Prize site.
  • Tribute to Emily Greene Balch by John Dewey, pages 149–150 in Later Works of John Dewey volume 17. First published in Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1946 page 2.