Perhaps it was fortune or maybe it was fate that Emily Balch came into this world just as the Unites States was licking its collective wounds, seeking peace after the brutality of its Civil War. Coming from an educated and prosperous family, Emily too, was well-educated as a youth and later as an adult, where her educational journey took her from multiple highly esteemed universities within the U.S., to Universities in both Paris and Berlin. With a focus on sociology and economics, Ms. Balch returned stateside at the end of the Nineteenth Century where she assumed a Professorship of Economics at Wellsley.
Though her study of sociology and economics were her focus, perhaps her destiny was the pursuit of peace and equality. During her life, she worked on the boards of numerous organizations for women and children, participated in women’s Suffrage movements, and founded the Women’s International Committee for Permanent Peace and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
As the world moved toward conflict once more with the coming of the first World War in 1914, together with Jane Addams (1931 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate) Emily sought to halt the progress toward war by trying to convince the heads of neutral world powers to seek a peaceful resolution. Trouble came as the U.S. ignored Ms.’ Balch and Addams’ entreaties by joining the war and in labeling the women as political radicals. As such, Ms. Balch lost her Professorship, and as a result, threw herself more fully into her peace work.
By 1935, her beliefs in passive solutions were challenged when the German and Italian leaders pursued world domination, causing her state that a solution must be sought “with sword in hand.”
Ms. Balch received her Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, just as the world, once again, sought peace and healing. She lived one day past her 94th birthday.