Emily Greene Balch

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Emily Greene Balch

Emily Greene Balch (January 8, 1867 – January 9, 1961) was an American economist, sociologist and pacifist. Balch combined an academic career at Wellesley College with a long-standing interest in social issues such as poverty, child labor, and immigration, as well as settlement work to uplift poor immigrants and reduce juvenile delinquency.

She moved into the peace movement at the start of World War I in 1914, and began collaborating with Jane Addams of Chicago. She became a central leader of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) based in Switzerland, for which she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946.

Quotes[edit]

  • I believe so deeply that the way of war is not the way of Christianity
    • Letter to President of Wellesley College (1916), anthologized in War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar & Peace Writing

"Toward Human Unity or Beyond Nationalism" (April 7, 1948)[edit]

  • Another thing-men are everywhere becoming less "private-minded." There is a growing community sense. It is as though the urge which found expression in monasteries and nunneries in the middle ages were finding new expression. In the political field this consciousness of the common interest and of the rich possibilities of common action has embodied itself in part in the great movements toward economic democracy, cooperation, democratic socialism and communism. I am sure we make a great mistake if we underrate the element of unselfish idealism in these historic movements which are today writing history at such a rate.
  • A dark and terrible side of this sense of community of interests is the fear of a horrible common destiny which in these days of atomic weapons darkens men's minds all around the globe. Men have a sense of being subject to the same fate, of being all in the same boat. But fear is a poor motive to which to appeal and I am sure that "peace people" are on a wrong path when they expatiate on the horrors of a new world war.
  • Fear weakens the nerves and distorts the judgment. It is not by fear that mankind must exorcise the demon of destruction and cruelty, but by motives more reasonable, more humane and more heroic.
  • There has been personal refusal of war service on grounds of conscience on a large scale and at great personal cost by thousands of young men called up for military service. While many people fail to understand and certainly do not approve their position, I believe that it has been an invaluable witness to the supremacy of conscience over all other considerations and a very great service to a public too much affected by the conception that might makes right.
  • It is to me surprising that the repudiation of the entire theory and practice of conscription has not found expression in a wider and more powerful movement drawing strength from the widespread concern for individual liberty. We are horrified at many slighter infringements of individual freedom, far less terrible than this. But we are so accustomed to conscription that we take it for granted.
  • I feel it rather surprising that refusal of war has never taken the form, on any large scale, of refusal to pay taxes for military use, a refusal which would have involved not only young men but (and mainly) older men and women holders, of property.
  • The form of work for peace which has most obviously made history is the long continued effort to create some form of world organization which should both prevent wars and foster international cooperation.
  • As we know only too well, the League of Nations, lacking Russia and the United States, was not sufficiently inclusive. Also when the pinch came, different governments proved unready to make the sacrifices or face the risks involved in effective opposition to imperialism in Japan, reaction in Spain, fascism in Italy or nazism in Germany.
  • In such a world all war would be civil war and we must hope that it will grow increasingly inconceivable. It has already become capable of such unlimited destruction and such fearful possibilities of uncontrollable and little understood "chain reactions" of all sorts that it would seem that no one not literally insane could decide to start an atomic war.
  • I have spoken against fear as a basis for peace. What we ought to fear, especially we Americans, is not that someone may drop atomic bombs on us but that we may allow a world situation to develop in which ordinarily reasonable and humane men, acting as our representatives, may use such weapons in our name. We ought to be resolved beforehand that no provocation, no temptation shall induce us to resort to the last dreadful alternative of war.
  • May no young man ever again be faced with the choice between violating his conscience by co-operating in competitive mass-slaughter or separating himself from those who, endeavouring to serve liberty, democracy, humanity can find no better way than to conscript young men to kill.
  • As the world community develops in peace, it will open up great untapped reservoirs in human nature. Like a spring released from pressure would be the response of a generation of young men and women growing up in an atmosphere of friendliness and security, in a world demanding their service, offering them comradeship, calling to all adventurous and forward-reaching natures.
  • We are not asked to subscribe to any Utopia or to believe in a perfect world just around the corner. We are asked to be patient with necessarily slow and groping advance on the road forward, and to be ready for each step ahead as it becomes practicable. We are asked to equip ourselves with courage, hope, readiness for hard work, and to cherish large and generous ideals.

Speech at International Congress of Women at The Hague (1915)[edit]

In Outspoken Women: Speeches by American Women Reformers 1635-1935 edited by Judith Anderson (1984)

  • The question of peace is a question of terms. Every country desires peace at the earliest possible moment at which it can be had on terms satisfactory to itself. Peace is possible the moment that each side would accept what the other would grant, but from the international or human point of view a satisfactory peace is possible only when these claims and concessions are such as to forward and not to hinder human progress.
  • In one sense the present war is a conflict between the two great sets of belligerent powers, but in a different and very real sense it is a conflict between two conceptions of national policy. The catch words "democracy" and "imperialism" may be used briefly to indicate the opposing ideas. In every country both are represented, though in varying proportions, and in every country there is strife between them. In each belligerent nation there are those that want to continue the fight till military supremacy is achieved, in each there are powerful forces that seek a settlement of a wiser type which, instead of containing such threats to stability as are involved in annexation, humiliation of the enemy, and in competition in armaments, shall secure rational independence all round, protect the rights of minorities and foster international cooperation.
  • Another effect of war is that as between the two contending voices, the one is given a megaphone, the other is muffled if not gagged. Papers and platforms are open to "patriotic" utterances as patriotism is understood by the jingo; the moderate is silenced not alone by the censor, not alone by social pressure, but also by his own sense of the effect abroad of all that gives an impression of internal division and of a readiness to quit the fight.
  • Everywhere war puts out of sight the moderates and the forces that make for peace and gives an exaggerated influence to militaristic and jingo forces creating a false impression of the pressure for extreme terms.
  • If the disinterested neutrals, who alone are free to act for peace, wait for a moment when neither side has any advantage they will wait long indeed.
  • All the belligerents want peace, though probably with different intensity; none of them wants it enough to cry "I surrender."
  • Gains won by force create no claim that anyone is bound to respect
  • A peace involving annexation of unwilling peoples could never be a lasting one.
  • Each people would be thankful indeed to secure an early peace without humiliation a long way short of its extreme demands. There is thus every reason to believe that a vigorous initiative by representatives of the neutral powers of the world could at this moment begin a move toward negotiations and lead the way to a settlement which, please God, shall be a step toward a nobler and more intelligent civilization than we have yet enjoyed.

External links[edit]

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