A little woman with a big heart, Emily Greene Balch is an unsung hero of Boston. Most people might not even know that this Boston native was the second American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was an artist, a poet, but was predominantly a pacifist whose intent was to help those who suffered.
Balch was born on January 8, 1867 in Jamaica Plain, at that time a small neighborhood of Boston. Her mother was Ellen Maria Noyes (pictured at left) and her father was Francis Vergnies Balch(pictured below right), both proper Bostonians of the upper class. One of seven children and named after her mother's bridesmaid, Balch was the one who most closely resembled her father. Both were intelligent souls who were peaceful in nature and believed in simplicity. Balch's father was also a source of strength for her; for instance he supported her decision to attend college at a time when female education was frowned upon.
Balch attended the recently opened Bryn Mawr College and graduated in 1889. Her Unitarian upbringing inspired her to do good works, and so after she returned from studying in France she founded Denison House in 1982, a settlement that helped the poor.
In 1896 Balch began teaching economics at Wellesley, yet her actions on behalf of the suffering did not end. Among her accomplishments are: writing works that defended Slavic immigrants in America, attending the International Congress of Women at The Hague to seek peaceful mediations to end World War I, meeting President Woodrow Wilson to gain his support for mediation instead of battle, forming the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom with Jane Addams, and going to Haiti to investigate the conditions of the country while under U.S. Marine occupation.
Finally, in 1946 Emily Balch was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her lifelong dedication to the pursuit of
peace. The generous woman gave her prize money to the Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom, the organization that was so dear to her, and
died in a nursing home in Cambridge for lack of money on January 9, 1961.
Site of Emily Greene Balch's childhood home in Jamaica Plain (130 Prince St.)
Plaque on the house today
Jan 8, 1867- Born in Jamaica Plain, MA
1880-1886- Attended Miss Ireland's School in Boston
1886- Entered Bryn Mawr College
1889-Graduated Bryn Mawr College with A.B. Awarded Bryn Mawr European Fellowship.
1890-1891- Studied at the Sorbonne.
1892- Helped to found Denison House, a Boston settlement.
1893- Studied at Harvard Annex.
1895- Studied at University of Chicago.
1895-1896- Studied at University of Berlin.
1896- Accepted Teaching Position in Economics at Wellesley.
1902 (?)- Cofounded and becomes president of Boston Women's Trade Union League.
1905-1906- Traveled in Austria and Hungary.
1909- Helped organize socialist conference in Boston with Vida Scudder.
1914- Fire at Wellesley College destroyed many Balch papers, including much Slavic research.
1915- Attended International Congress of Women in The Hague. Active in Woman's Peace Party. Joins unofficial peace-seeking delegation visiting Scandinavia and Russia.
1916- Participated in Neutral Conference for Continuous Mediation in Stolckholm. Visits President Woodrow Wilson to argue peace through continuous mediation.
1917- 1918- Took unpaid leave from Wellesley.
1917- Helped found Emergency Peace Federation, which becomes People's Council of America.
1919- Reappointment as professor at Wellesley denied by board of trustees. Joins staff of The Nation . Attends second International Congress of Women in Zurich. Helps form WILPF.
1919-1922- Served as secretary-treasurer of the International Executive Committee of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Geneva.
1921- Joined London Society of Friends.
1924- Moved from Jamaica Plain to "Domichek" in Wellesley.
1926- Went to Haiti under WILPF auspices.
1928- 1933- Served as president of WILPF, U.S. Section.
1929-1932- Served as one of three chairmen of the WILPF International Executive Committee.
1934- 1935- Served as honorary international secretary, WILPF, in Geneva.
1937- Elected, and continued to serve until her death as honorary president of WILPF International.
1941- Published poetry book The Miracle of Living .
1942- Her 75th birthday honored at WILPF luncheon in Philadelphia.
1946- Attended 10th International Congress of WILPF in Luxembourg. Receives Nobel Peace Prize.
1947- Asked United Nations to internationalize great waterways of the world and uninhabited polar regions. Urged creation of UN Maritime Authority.
1948- Delivered Nobel lecture in Oslo, titled "Beyond Human Unity or Beyond Nationalism."
1957- Honored by WILPF on 90th birthday.
Jan. 9, 1961- Died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, nursing home.
Timeline from Papers of Emily Greene Balch, 1875-1961. Ed. Marta P. Shane. Scholarly Resources microfilm edition. Pennsylvania: Swarthmore College Peace Collection.