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Nobel Peace Laureates, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch: Two Women of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom Harriet Hyman Alonso In November, 1895, Alfred Nobel, wealthy inventor and entrepreneur, signed his last will and testament. In it, he stipulated that the major part of his estate be converted into a fund and invested, the interest to be used for prizes in five areas he wished to promote, one of which was peace.1 Nobel's interest in the peace cause centered around his passionate friendship with Baroness Bertha von Suttner, the founder of the Austrian Peace Society.2 Nobel envisioned the prize as a tribute to the woman or man who did the most for obtaining peace in Europe. Little did he imagine that it would become one of the most pretigious and lucrative awards in the world.3 In the spring of 1992, eighteen peace historians gathered at the Nobel Institute in Norway to probe the question, "How has the Nobel Peace Prize been accepted in the laureates' own nations?" My assignment was to enlighten the group on the two women from the United States who won the prize: Jane Addams (1931) and Emily Greene Balch (1946).4 Each received the honor for her work with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Addams was already a well-known Progressive Era reformer when she was named a Nobel laureate and is well placed in U.S. history. Emily Greene Balch, however, was and still is virtually unknown in the land of her birth. Why, I wondered, was this so? Both women came from similar backgrounds, lived through the same eras, and embraced many of the same causes. They worked together in WILPF and other organizations to ward off U.S. participation in World War I, faced similar harassment during the Red Scare of the 1920s, and worked together in the international search for world peace during the interwar years. After Addams died in 1935, Balch continued working with WILPF until her death in 1961. Three factors may explain the inconsistency in the two women's reputations: 1) Addams is best known for her work in the settlement house movement, an extension of the domestic sphere and traditionally occupied by women, whereas Balch chose peace activism as a career, thereby entering the world of international affairs, a sphere traditionally closed to women. Addams's social work, in other words, did not generally threaten © 1995 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 7 No. 2 (Summer) 1995 Harriet Hyman Alonso 7 the status quo, whereas Batch's peace work did. 2) Addams did not criticize the nation's capitalist ideology while Balch openly declared herself a socialist, allying with political groups which U.S. policy makers disfavored. Throughout her career, Balch challenged the basic economic principles of capitalism. 3) Addams received the prize during a time of relative peace while Balch received it during the early Cold War years. The public's view at the time was that Addams's work mirrored government policy, whereas Balch's reflected clearcut opposition. A comparison of these women's lives and careers offers more insight into the matter. The Early Years Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch had much in common during their early years. Their upbringing and education led to a similar desire to end poverty and war. The two women were born just six years apart to upper middle-class parents—Addams on September 6,1860, and Balch on January 8,1867.5 Both women had industrious, politically Uberal fathers and traditional Victorian-era mothers. Addams's father, John Huy Addams, a prosperous Illinois miller and banker, was heavily involved in community affairs. An opponent of slavery, he met and befriended many influential figures, among them, Abraham Lincoln. Balch's father, Francis Vergnies Balch, a graduate of Harvard University, volunteered to fight in the Civil War, and served as secretary to the abolitionist U.S. senator, Charles Sumner. Returning to Boston, he devoted the remainder of his life to practicing law. Addams's mother, Sarah Weber Addams, concentrated on her role as wife and mother, and died when Jane was only two years old. Five years...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 6-26
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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