Balch, Emily Greene

views updated May 29 2018

BALCH, Emily Greene

Born 8 January 1867, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts; died 9 January 1961, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Daughter of Francis Vergnies and Ellen Maria Noyes Balch

Emily Greene Balch is one of the two American women (Jane Addams was the other recipient in 1931) to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (in 1946), yet her life and writings remain relatively obscure. Graduating in 1889 from Bryn Mawr in its first matriculated class, Balch was given its highest honor, the Bryn Mawr Fellowship for European Study. Her subsequent training in Europe, which brought her in contact with Emile Levasseur in Paris, resulted in a technical treatise on relief for the poor in France. Returning in 1890, Balch became one of the early social workers and two years later, with Vida Scudder and Helena Dudley, founded one of the first settlement houses, Denison House in Boston. Further European training in Germany in 1895 was concluded with Balch's attendance at the International Socialist Workers' and Trade Union Congress in London. Katherine Coman, a well-known economist and historian, returned to the U.S. on the same ship with Balch and offered her an academic position at Wellesley College, which Balch accepted.

From 1897 until 1918, Balch was an outstanding member of the Wellesley faculty, working in the newly formed discipline of sociology as well as in economics. Around 1905 she undertook a Slavic journey which resulted in her major research book, Our Slavic Fellow Citizens. During these years she was an active supporter of many social reforms and changes, but from 1915 until her death, Balch's most radical and absorbing social concern was pacifism.

Balch's first publication, Public Assistance of the Poor in France (1893), is a study of the historical development of care for the poor as well as an organizational study of the bureaucracy that administered the welfare programs. The types of services offered, the disabilities covered by the state programs, and the types of social pathologies found are all discussed. Combining cost with statistical and demographic information, the thesis was one of the earliest sociological studies of care for the poor and disabled.

In 1895 Balch published a technical manuscript, Manual for Use in Cases of Juvenile Offenders and Other Minors in Massachusetts, that would be primarily of interest to historians of social welfare. In 1903 she published A Study of Conditions of City Life, a bibliography on urban areas. This extensive listing of writings on the city clearly anticipated much of the concern on the same topic which later emerged at the famous "Chicago School" of sociology.

Balch's most significant book was Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (1910). Convinced of the need to know her subject well, she "spent the greater part of the year 1905 in Austria-Hungary, studying emigration on the spot, and over a year in visiting Slavic colonies in the United States…. One autumn was spent as a boarder in the family of a Bohemian working man in New York City." In this first major sociological work on immigration, she discusses the Slovenians, Croatians, Austrian Poles, and Ruthenians, and their ways of life in Europe and the United States. Accompanied by a variety of appendices with many statistical tables, the book is an outstanding example of early sociology. Predating and in many ways complementing the highly lauded volumes, The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918-20) by W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki, the lack of recognition received by this and other of Balch's works on sociological topics is hard to explain.

The remainder of Balch's writings revolved around the topic of international peace, a particularly controversial subject immediately prior to and during World War I. In 1915 Balch, Jane Addams, and Alice Hamilton came to national prominence as delegates to the International Congress of Women at The Hague (which later evolved into the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) and as members of peace envoys to countries around the world. Their joint publication of The Women at The Hague (1915) brought the meetings to worldwide attention and subsequently subjected the women to frequent personal ostracism and attack. Following a sabbatical from 1915 to 1917, when Balch gained national prominence as a pacifist, the Board of Trustees of Wellesley College failed to appoint her, terminating her academic career at fifty-two years of age after 20 years of service.

Continuing her fight for a peaceful settlement to World War I, Balch edited Approaches to the Great Settlement (1918), a comprehensive volume containing major statements by various spokespersons and groups on ways to end the war. In 1919 the newly established Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (W.I.L.P.F.) elected Balch as international secretarytreasurer. This organization became the anchor for her future career as an international arbiter for peace. As a leader of a committee selected by the W.I.L.P.F., Balch edited and largely wrote Occupied Haiti (1927). The forcefulness and reasonableness of the committee's arguments led to the adoption of their recommendations by President Hoover in 1930.

In addition to these formal, abstract writings, Balch wrote a short book of verse, The Miracle of Living (1941), which provides an insight into some of her philosophy and the simplicity of her world view.

Balch wrote voluminously in newsletters, academic journals, and popular magazines. Many of these writings are difficult to obtain and cover diverse topics. An excellent compilation of some of these works is available in Beyond Nationalism (1972), edited by Mercedes Randall, Balch's biographer.

Balch's role as an academic, theorist, and international leader has yet to be systematically analyzed and evaluated. Nonetheless, recognition of her significance, work, and writings for world peace is evident in her status as a Nobel laureate.

Other Works:

The Papers of Emily Greene Balch, 1875-1961 (microfilm archives in Wilmington, Delaware, 1988)


Cavanaugh, B., The Earth is My Home: A Comparison of Two Women Pacifists, Emily Greene Balch and JeannetteRankin (thesis, 1989). Kaufman, P.W., "The Simplest of New England Spinsters: Becoming Emily Greene Balch 1875-1961" in Women of the Commonwealth: Work, Family, and Social Change in Nineteenth-century Massachusetts (1996). Kenworthy, L.S., "Emily Greene Balch" in Living in the Light: Some Quaker Pioneers of the 20th Century (1984). Meinecke, M.F., Emily Greene Balch: An Overlooked Leader in the International Peace Movement and Her Travails for Peace from 1914 to 1929 (thesis, 1994). Hardy, G. J., American Women Civil Rights Activists: Biobibliographies of 68 Leaders, 1825-1992 (1993). Randall, M. M., Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch (1964). Shane, M.P., Papers of Emily Greene Balch, 1875-1961: Guide to the Scholarly Resources Microfilm Edition (1988). Thomas, W. I., and Znaniecki, F., The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (2 vols., 1918-20).


Emily Greene Balch

views updated May 29 2018

Emily Greene Balch

Pacifist, political activist, college professor, and social reformer, Emily Greene Balch (1867-1961) dedicated her life to humanitarian causes. In 1946 she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John R. Mott.

Emily Greene Balch was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, on January 8, 1867. Her father and mother, Ellen Noyes and Francis V. Balch, were educated Unitarians who raised their six children to cherish high moral and religious standards.

When selecting a college after attending Miss Catherine Ireland's School in Boston, Balch chose Bryn Mawr. Entering in 1886, she studied economics and graduated with an A.B. degree in 1889. The initial recipient of the European Fellowship at Bryn Mawr, she went first to New York City to work under social reformer Jacob Riis, then used her award to attend the Sorbonne. From 1890 to 1891 she applied herself to "the social question," and upon her return to the United States she worked in Boston with Charles W. Birtwell at the Children's Aid Society.

Now in her element, Balch became acquainted in 1892 with three other reform-minded women: Jane Addams, Katherine Coman, and Vida Scudder. That same year she helped found the Boston settlement Denison House, acting as its director for a brief time.

Following her social work experience, Balch turned to college teaching as a way to further advance the cause of reform. She prepared for this by studying at the University of Chicago, at Harvard University, and at the University of Berlin. In 1896 Balch joined Coman at Wellesley College as an assistant, teaching economics courses. She illustrated her lectures with her social work experiences and was highly regarded as an imaginative and dedicated teacher.

In 1902 Balch became president of the Women's Trade Union League of Boston, which she co-founded, and sat on a state commission organized to investigate minimum wages for women. In 1906 she announced her affinity for socialism and worked closely with others to advance its principles. These radical activities cost her the chance to move up quickly in the academic hierarchy at Wellesley.

Balch's research led to the publication of Our Slavic Fellow Citizens in 1910. She was appointed chairwoman of the economics and sociology department at Wellesley College in 1913. Two years later, in April 1915, she travelled to The Hague, where she was an American delegate to the International Congress of Women. The 42-member delegation included such notables as Addams, Alice Hamilton, and Louis Lochner.

Balch was on leave from Wellesley between 1916 and 1918. During that period she became active in pacifism and was connected with such groups as the American Union Against Militarism and the Women's Peace Party. Because of her outspoken views and radical behavior, renewal of Balch's contract at Wellesley was denied in 1919. That same year she accompanied another delegation to the International Congress of Women. While there, she was elected secretary-treasurer of the newly-formed Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which had Addams as its president.

Balch relied heavily on her spiritual convictions during these years and in 1921 joined the London Society of Friends. She dedicated herself to the success of the League of Nations, helping to ensure that the interests of smaller nations and of women and children were upheld.

By 1922, due to poor health, Balch resigned as secretary-treasurer of the WILPF, although she continued to work for the group on a voluntary basis. She travelled to Haiti with a commission established by Herbert Hoover in 1930 to investigate conditions in that occupied nation. Hoover subsequently removed U.S. troops from Haiti on the basis of the commission's report.

In 1935 Wellesley College invited Balch to speak at an Armistice Day program, ending its public disapproval of the former faculty member.

Balch worked tirelessly on behalf of world peace and in 1939 published Refugees as Assets, urging the United States to admit refugees from Nazis out of respect for humanitarian principles. After Pearl Harbor in 1941, Balch advocated support for Japanese-Americans held in U.S. detention camps.

Balch won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, an award she shared with John R. Mott, international Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) official. Among those supporting Balch's nomination for the prize was Wellesley president Mildred McAfee Horton. Balch donated her $17,000 share of the prize money to the WILPF.

In poor health and living on a limited income during her later years, Balch nevertheless continued her activism. She was honorary chairwoman of the Women's International League, and in 1959 served on a commission that organized a 100th anniversary celebration in honor of Jane Addam's birth held the following year.

Balch entered Mr. Vernon Nursing Home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956 and died there of pneumonia at age 94 on January 10, 1961.

Further Reading

Both John Herman Randall, Jr.'s Emily Greene Balch of New England, Citizen of the World (1946) and Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch (1964) by Mercedes M. Randall, are biographies of note. Further insight into Balch's activism can be found in Beyond Nationalism: The Social Thought of Emily Greene Balch (1972) by Mercedes M. Randall. □

Balch, Emily Greene

views updated May 29 2018

Balch, Emily Greene (1867–1961), pacifist, feminist, and Nobel Peace Prize winner.Born in Massachusetts, educated at Bryn Mawr College, Balch became an economics professor at Wellesley College until 1919, when she was fired for her antiwar activities during World War I. She was one of the founders and leaders of the Woman's Peace Party (1915–19) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), founded in Zurich in 1919. She served as WILPF's international secretary from 1919 to 1922 and in a number of other leadership positions until her retirement in 1950. Her belief in transnational ideals, nonviolence, and justice, as well as her commitment to women's equality and freedom, shaped her approach to peace activism. A “practical” pacifist and feminist, Balch held that, as responsible citizens, women must work to end war by promoting just and nonviolent alternatives such as disarmament and peaceful international processes for conflict resolution and for meeting human needs. Believing most strongly that cooperative international endeavors offered the first steps toward peace, Balch proposed plans for mediation of the conflicts in Manchuria and Spain during the 1930s. She was one of two recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.
[See also Addams, Jane; Pacifism.]


Mercedes M. Randall , Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch, 1964.
Mercedes Randall, ed., Beyond Nationalism: The Social Thought of Emily Greene Balch, 1972.
Anne Marie Pois , Foreshadowing: Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, and the Ecofeminism/Pacifist Feminism of the 1980s, Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 20, No. 4 (October 1995): 439–465.

Anne Marie Pois

Balch, Emily Greene

views updated May 17 2018

Balch, Emily Greene (1867–1961) Balch was an American sociologist who pioneered the concept of role and the use of statistical techniques in sociology. She carried out important comparative analyses of immigrant life in both Europe and America, and forged links between feminism, pacifism, and peaceful arbitration. In 1892 she co-founded a social settlement in Boston—Dennison House—with Vida Scudder and Helena Dudley. Balch was active in numerous women's trade-union activities, and from the start Dennison House became a centre for women workers. Her commitment to world peace during the First World War created much furore and subsequent ostracism, although her work in this field was finally given recognition in 1946, when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Balch combined both statistical data and sociological theory in her important study Public Assistance of the Poor in France, at a time when few other sociologists were doing so. However, her best-known volume is Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (1910), which pre-dated and in some ways complemented the much-praised and more widely recognized work of the Chicago sociologists W. I. Thomas and Florian Znaniecki on The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918–20).