Emily Green Balch

Emily Green Balch

Emily Greene Balch

Emily Greene Balch was a colleague of Jane Addams’ in the effort to stop the First World War, her partner in the work of WILPF, and successor as its leader. In 1946 she herself shared a prize with the YMCA leader, John Mott. It came to her as the result of a successful campaign organized at the request of WILPF by its member, Mercedes Randall, who did a remarkable job of bringing Balch’s indisputable qualifications before the Nobel committee and securing a large number of prominent supporters.

Committee Chairman Gunnar Jahn gave a far fuller description of Balch’s activities than Koht had devoted to Addams. He told of her landmark research on Slav immigrants to the U.S., of her twenty-year teaching of social economics at Wellesley College, which ended when she was dismissed because of her pacifist activities during World War I. In her next career, she was at the center of WILPF’s international work, serving for a time as its secretary-general in the Geneva headquarters, and continuing to be a familiar figure at the League of Nations.

Jahn was impressed with her practicality, her effort to improve international political relations by promoting international cooperation in other fields, and by her control of the facts in all her proposals. As an example he referred to her work to secure the withdrawal of the U. S. troops from Haiti in 1926 after eleven years of occupation. She went to Haiti with a delegation, showed great skill in investigating the situation, wrote most of the report, and fought to get the recommendations accepted by the government. Eventually they were all carried out and the troops withdrawn.

Jahn referred to Balch’s difficult decision in World War II, as an absolute pacifist who had joined the Quakers, to support the U.S. war effort to vanquish the evil which Hitlerism represented. She could not be unaffected by the fate of her WILPF colleagues and Jewish friends.

Jahn commended Balch for her gradualism, as compared with the Utopianism of less patient peace workers. She continued to develop imaginative proposals for slow international progress through functional cooperation and came to be regarded by American peace activists as their intellectual leader.

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