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Emily Greene Balch

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, writer and Nobel Laureate.


She became a Quaker and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 for her work with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). 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 refused to support the war effort when the United States entered the war in 1917, and lost her professorship at Wellesley College.

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 served 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.[1]


Emily Greene Balch was born in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston into an affluent family. In 1889 she was among the first graduates of Bryn Mawr College. She continued to study sociology and economics in Europe and the United States. During the summer of 1896 she and her friend Mary Kingsbury attended the International Socialist Trade Union Congress in London.[2] In 1896, she also joined the faculty of Wellesley College, becoming a full professor of economics and sociology in 1913.

During World War I, she helped to found the WILPF and campaigned against the United States' entry into the conflict. Writing 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." [3]

When her contract was terminated by Wellesley because of her pacifist activities, Balch became an editor of The Nation, a well-known liberal news magazine. Balch converted from Unitarianism and became a Quaker in 1921. She would state "Religion seems to me one of the 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."[4]

She also served as the secretary of the WILPF (a second term in 1934 during the Great Depression without salary for a year and a half), and did much work for the League of Nations.

After getting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, she nominated Mahatma Gandhi for the same in the year 1948 but he could not win it.

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

See also



  1. ^ Suzanne Niemeyer, editor, Research Guide to American Historical Biography: vol. IV (1990) pp 1806–1814
  2. ^ "Mary Melinda (Kingsbury) Simkhovitch, 1867-1951". Harvard. Retrieved 2015-03-16. 
  3. ^ Randall, Mercedes Moritz. 1964. Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1946. Ardent Media, pp. 364; 378
  4. ^ Randall, Mercedes Moritz. 1964. Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1946. Ardent Media, p. 60


Further reading

  • Gwinn, Kristen E. Emily Greene Balch: The Long Road to Internationalism (University of Illinois Press; 2011) 272 pages; a biography excerpt and text search
  • Christopher McKnight Nichols. Promise and Peril: America at the Dawn of a Global Age (Harvard University Press, 2011).
  • Randall, Mercedes M. Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch (Twayne Publishers, 1964). scholarly biography
  • Who's Who in New England, Marquis, 1916 

External links

  • 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.

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