Feast of Emily Greene Balch (January 9)   1 comment

Above:  Emily Greene Balch

Image in the Public Domain



U.S. Quaker Sociologist, Economist, and Peace Activist


If Messiah should arise bodily from death, it would mean there was more for us to learn in our efforts to understand than we had expected.  It would not overthrow any truth that we had eventually reached, whatever adjustment our thought might have to make.

–Emily Greene Balch, quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 90


Emily Greene Balch, raised a Unitarian, spent her adult life working for social justice.  She, born in Boston, Massachusets, on January 8, 1867, came from a wealthy and prominent family.  Family wealth enabled our saint to receive a fine education.  Unitarianism, with its tradition of social justice activism, also contributed to Balch’s professional direction.  She graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1889 then at the Sorbonne.  In 1892, in Boston, between graduate studies at the Sorbonne and at Harvard, Balch founded Denison House, modeled after Hull House, in Chicago, Illinois.  Our saint continued her graduate studies (focused on poverty, sociology, gender, and economics) at the Universities of Chicago and Berlin.

Balch served on the faculty of Wellesley College from 1896 to 1918.  She rose to Professor of Economics in 1913.  The college fired her in 1918; the cause of the termination was our saint’s pacifism during World War I.

Balch spent her professional life pursuing practical solutions to problems of poverty and gender.  The word “intersectionality” did not exist yet, but she tried to help people at intersections of categories, such as poor, child, female, immigrant, industrial worker, and conscientious objector.    She supported the labor union movement, was a suffragette, helped conscientious objectors, advocated to end child labor, and worked on industrial education.   Balch, Jane Addams (1860-1935), and others founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915.  Our saint served as the Secretary General of that organization for a number of years.  She also joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  Balch, a convert to Quakerism in 1921, assisted refugees from the Third Reich while continuing to help conscientious objectors during World War II.  She also supported Allied victory in that war.  For our saint’s work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

Balch, who never married, lived to the age of 94 years.  She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on January 9, 1961.





Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Emily Greene Balch,

to work for justice among people and nations, the the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


One response to “Feast of Emily Greene Balch (January 9)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Vida Dutton Scudder (October 10) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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