Nobel Women

emily greene balch

Emily Greene Balch, 1946 Noble Peace Prize Winner

January 08, 2010
by Sarah Amandolare
Passionate about helping the poor, and among the first graduates of Bryn Mawr College, Emily Greene Balch went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

Balch was educated at private schools and earned a European Fellowship for the study of economics, which she completed in Paris from 1890-1891. During that time, she also wrote “Public Assistance of the Poor in France,” the start of a lifelong pursuit of bettering the lives of impoverished people around the world, the Nobel Foundation Web site explains.

When she returned to the United States from Paris in 1892, “Balch was determined to join the emerging female social reform movement in Boston,” and quickly founded Denison House, the first settlement house in Boston, Harvard Square Library reports. She lived there and oversaw the house for “several months,” during which time she met and befriended Jane Addams. The two would work together often throughout their careers.

Balch decided that sociology was her passion, and wrote about the image that convinced her to do so. "It was in Prague, in 1906, that one unbearably bleak winter morning, I saw a man fumbling with his bare fingers in an ash barrel in search of something to eat,” she said, according to Harvard Square Library. She was later named head of the Wellesley College Department of Economics and Sociology, and her sociological research led to the publishing of her seminal work,“Our Slavic Fellow Citizens,” in 1910.

In 1915, Balch attended the International Congress of Women at The Hague in the Netherlands, along with “distinguished social reformers,” including Addams and Alice Hamilton, according to While she was at The Hague, Balch was involved in creating the organization later known as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

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