Emily Greene Balch
Early Life and Education
Emily Greene Balch was born in Boston into a prosperous family. She went to private schools as a young girl; and was one of the first graduates of Bryn Mawr College in 1889. In 1889-1890, she studied sociology independently before going to study economics in Paris in 1890-1891 (having won a European Fellowship from Bryn Mawr); there she wrote and later published "Public Assistance of the Poor in France". Upon her return to the United States, she studied courses at Harvard and the University of Chicago, completing her formal studies with a year studying economics in Berlin in 1895-96.
In 1896 she joined the faculty of Wellesley College, rising to the rank of professor of economics and sociology in 1913. During these years she participated in movements for women's suffrage, for racial justice, for control of child labor, for better wages and conditions of labor; she contributed to knowledge with her research, notably, Our Slavic Felow-Citizens (1910), a study of the main concentrations of Slavs in America and of the areas in Austria and Hungary from which they emigrated.
After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Balch dedicated herself to the peace movement. She was a delegate to the International Congress of Women at The Hague in 1915, and played a prominent role in founding an organization called the Women's International Committee for Permanent Peace, (later named the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom). She was also played an influential role in preparing peace proposals for consideration by the warring nations; in serving on a delegation, sponsored by the Congress, to the Scandinavian countries and Russia to urge their governments to initiate mediation offers; and in writing, in collaboration with Jane Addams and Alice Hamilton, Women at The Hague: The International Congress of Women and Its Results (1915). She was a member of his Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation, based at Stockholm, for which she drew up a position paper called «International Colonial Administration», proposing a system of administration not unlike that of the mandate system later accepted by the League of Nations.
Her tenure at Wellesley College was terminated upon her return to the United States. She accepted a position on the editorial staff of the liberal weekly, the Nation; wrote Approaches to the Great Settlement, with an introduction by Norman Angell, a future Nobel Peace Prize winner (for 1933); attended the second convention of the International Congress of Women held in Zurich in 1919 and accepted its invitation to become secretary of its operating organization, The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, with headquarters in Geneva. This post she relinquished in 1922, but when the League was hard pressed financially in 1934, she again acted, without salary, as international secretary for a year and a half. The League received a share of the Nobel Peace Prize money.
League of Nations and WWII
During the inter-war period, Balch worked on a number of projects associated wih the League of Nations, including disarmament, the internationalization of aviation, drug control, and the participation of the United States in the affairs of the League. In 1926 she served as a member of a WILPF committee appointed to investigate conditions in Haiti, garrisoned then by American marines, and edited, as well as wrote, most of Occupied Haiti, the committee's report. In the thirties she sought ways and means to help the victims of Nazi persecution.
Indeed, the excesses of nazism caused Balch to change her strong pacifistic views and to defend the «fundamental human rights, sword in hand» during WW II. She also concentrated on generating ideas for the peace, most of them characterized by the common denominator of internationalism; for example, the internationalization of important waterways, of aviation, of certain regions of the world.
Even after receiving the Peace Prize in 1946, Balch continued, despite frail health, to participate in the cause to which she had given her life. She maintained her association with the WILPF, acting often in an honorary capacity; in 1959 she served as a co-chairman of a committee to mark the centenary of the birth of Jane Addams, a winner of the Peace Prize (1931).
She died at the age of ninety-four years and one day.
- Abrams, Irwin. The Nobel Peace Prize and the laureates: an illustrated biographical history. Nantucket: Watson Publishing International , 1990.