Emily Greene Balch: Fired From Wellesley College, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Emily Greene Balch didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize for getting fired from Wellesley College, but it must have been a nice consolation prize.

Emily Greene Balch

Emily Greene Balch

It was 1918 and Emily Greene Balch was busy campaigning against America’s entry into World War I. She formed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and served on a Congressionally sponsored delegation to Scandinavia and Russia to urge them to mediate a peace. All that took her away from her teaching. She asked Wellesley for an extension of her leave of absence. The college instead ended her contract.

You could call Emily Greene Balch a limousine liberal. She was born on Jan. 8, 1867 to a prosperous family in Boston. Her father was a successful lawyer and secretary to Sen. Charles Sumner. She went to private schools, graduated from Bryn Mawr and studied economics in Europe. She joined the faculty of Wellesley College in 1896, and by 1913 she rose to full professor of sociology and economics.

After Wellesley fired her, Emily Greene Balch became an editor of the liberal weekly The Nation. She would also write books and poems, investigate conditions in Haiti, serve as secretary of the WILPF and advocate for the internationalization of aviation and waterways.

Between the two world wars the Nazi brutality convinced her to abandon her pacifism. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946 and donated the prize money to the WILPF.

She was also involved in women’s suffrage, racial justice, child labor laws and the labor movement.

“Men who are scandalized at the lack of freedom in Russia do not ask themselves how real is liberty among the poor, the weak, and the ignorant in capitalist society,” she wrote in Men, Freedom, Society.

She was a deeply spiritual person. For years she was a Unitarian before becoming a Quaker in 1921.  “Those who are rooted in the depths that are eternal and unchangeable and who rely on unshakeable principles, face change full of courage, courage based on faith,” she wrote.

Emily Greene Balch died in 1961, the day after her 94th birthday.




  1. Cynthia Melendy

    January 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

    One of my heroines and neighbors.

  2. Anne Gowell Gillespie

    January 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Never even heard about this wonderful woman. Photo reminds me of your great-grandmother Ruth Lewis Gowell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top