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Emily Greene Balch


Emily Greene Balch

Emily Greene Balch

Courtesy Library of Congress

Emily Greene Balch Facts:

Known for: founding the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF); winning the Nobel Peace Prize, 1946

Occupation: peace activist, reformer, social worker, economist, teacher

Dates: January 8, 1867 - January 9, 1961

Also known as: Emily Balch, Emily Green Balch

Emily Greene Balch Biography:

Educated in private schools, Emily Balch studied at Bryn Mawr, graduating in the first class of that women's college. She studied economics and sociology privately in the United States and Europe.

Emily Balch worked in social work in Boston, helping found and for a time heading Denison House, one of many settlement houses being founded by women and men social reformers. She was briefly involved in the labor movement.

In 1895 to 1896, she studied at Harvard Annex, the University of Chicago, and the University of Berlin, preparing herself to be able to teach at Wellesley College, where she became an assistant in 1896. She was promoted the next year to instructor, and became an associate professor in 1903. In 1913 she was appointed professor of economics and sociology by Wellesley.

Emily Balch also remained active in social reform efforts. She helped to found the Women's Trade Union League in 1903. She was on several city and state boards, and was very active in working for woman suffrage, against child labor, for labor reform in general, for racial justice, and for peace. On one sabbatical, she studied immigration, resulting in a book on Our Slavic Fellow Citizens.

In 1915, a year after the beginning of World War I, Emily Balch attended the International Congress of Women at the Hague with 43 other American women. There, she was instrumental in starting a new organization, the Women's International Committee for Permanent Peace, later called the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Emily Balch worked with pacifist Henry Ford, though not on his Peace Ship in 1915. After using another sabbatical to work with organizations including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and after the United States entered World War I, Balch asked Wellesley for a leave of absence, but the trustees, embarrassed by her public pacifism, refused to renew her contract, essentially firing her. She went to work for the Nation, a liberal publication, for a year.

Attending the 1919 International Congress of Women, held in Zurich, she there accepted the position of secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, holding that post until 1922. She briefly took that position, without pay, in 1934, and later donated her Nobel Peace Prize financial award to the IWLPF.

More About Emily Greene Balch:

After World War I, Emily Balch worked for a number of League of Nations projects, and promoted the entry of the United States into that organization. She also worked on projects to help Haiti and to aid victims of the Nazis.

During World War II, Emily Balch reluctantly gave up her strict pacifism, believing that the threat of Hitler and the her words, she "went through along and painful struggle, and never felt that I had reached a clear and consistent conclusion." She worked with refugee resettlement and against the Japanese-American relocation camps.

In 1946, she shared the Nobel Peace prize with YMCA leader John R. Mott, and donated her prize money to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and to other groups. In the award ceremony, the chairman of the Nobel Committee said of Emily Balch, "She has taught us that the reality we seek must be earned by hard and unrelenting toil in the world in which we live, but she has taught us more: that exhaustion is unknown and defeat only gives fresh courage to the man whose soul is fired by the sacred flame."

One of Emily Balch's last projects was a 1959 celebration, organized by the WILPF, honoring the 100th anniversary of Jane Addams birth -- Jane Addams of Hull-House, and with whom Emily Balch had worked on peace projects, and who had won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Researchers can find Emily Balch's papers at the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

Background, Family:

  • Father: Francis Vergnies Balch (lawyer)
  • Mother: Ellen Maria Noyes Balch


  • private schools
  • Bryn Mawr, 1889 (first graduating class of Bryn Mawr)
  • private study with Franklin H. Giddings, sociology
  • Bryn Mawr European Fellowship; studied with Emile Lavasseur in Paris, 1890-1891
  • Harvard Annex (later became Radcliffe College), 1895
  • University of Chicago, 1895
  • Berlin, 1895-96: economics


  • Public Assistance of the Poor in France, 1893
  • Our Slavic Felow-Citizens, 1910
  • Women at The Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results, with Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton, 1915
  • Approaches to the Great Settlement, 1918
  • Occupied Haiti, editor, 1927
  • The Miracle of Living (poetry), 1941
  • Vignettes in Prose, 1952

Organizations: Women's Interrnational League for Peace and Freedom, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley College, Women's Trade Union League, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Religion: Emily Greene Balch was raised a Unitarian and in 1920 joined the Friends (Quakers)

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