A Very Different Vision of Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch: A comment on "Nobel Peace Laureates, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, The Journal of Women's History 7 (Summer 1995): 6-26, by Harriet Hyman Alonso
- Journal of Women's History
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 8, Number 2, Summer 1996
- pp. 121-125
- Additional Information
Letters to the Editor A Very Different Vision of Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch: A comment on "Nobel Peace Laureates, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, The Journal of Women's History 7 (Summer 1995): 6-26, by Harriet Hyman Alonso TaÃ±e Addams and Emily Greene Balch were lifelong alHes, friends, and I leaders in the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom ^WILPF). Their great, shared vision propeUed them into the international spotlight and ultimately they each were honored with a Nobel Peace Prize. The Journal of Women's History recently reprinted an artide with a very different vision of their Hves written by Harriet Alonso.1 Hi this paper, Alonso falsely dichotomizes Addams's and Balch's life and ideas to explain their very different pubHc reputations and honor in the United States. Alonso's argument briefly is: 1) Addams's work in a social settlement did not generally threaten the status quo. Balch's peace work did. 2) Addams did not criticize the nation's capitalist ideology while Balch openly dedared herself a sodalist, allying herself with political groups which U.S. policy makers disfavored. 3) Addams received the prize during a time of relative peace while Balch received it during the Cold War years.2 Although I cannot cite the whole paper, these statements summarize the major arguments. Contrary to Alonso's view, Addams's work was repeatedly a significant challenge to the status quo. Addams was a remarkable public leader, however, and she could articulate her differences from the status quo in such a way that she often healed pubHc conflicts and great community divisions. This skill and dedication emerged from a radical commitment that Alonso dismisses when she writes "she merely supported a caring, cooperative society."3 Alonso favors a conflid model advanced by socialists , and Balch's self-proclaimed aUegiance to socialism is defined as undoubtedly a more radical and distinct stance from Addams. Contrary to this view, both Addams and Balch shared a fundamental philosophy, "feminist pragmatism," that combined criticism of the economy, education , and limits on democracy while they honored women's traditional culture.4 In addition, both Balch and Addams shared a commitment to Fabian sodaHsm and cooperation. Balch and Addams can be compared, Â© 1996 Journal of Women's History, Vol. 8 No. 2 (Summer) 122 Journal of Women's History Summer therefore, in this way: Addams emphasized cooperation more than conflict in her feminist pragmatism, while Balch emphasized economics more than sodal interaction in her feminist pragmatism. Alonso's three points can now be reexamined: 1) Addams's remarkable work for WILPF was shared with Balch, and Addams was honored for this work in 1931 and Balch in 1946. In other words, their awards are linked and not distinguished by Addams being part of the status quo while Balch was a radical. Addams legitimated Balch's work in the arena of Nobel winners. 2) Addams and Balch both criticized capitalism, and this common central critique of American Hfe was an important intellectual and personal tie. They differed sometimes in their emphases on economics, but they usually shared mutual goals. For example, the National Women's Trade Union League was an important organization in both their lives. Balch supported their work in the 1910 Garment Workers Strike by moving to Hull-House that summer in order to help other women in that great labor struggle.5 3) Although Addams was an important American leader in the Great Depression and Balch received her award at the start of the Cold War, as Alonso notes, it is hard to know how much the Cold War affected Balch's selection process for the Nobel Peace Prize. It is clear, however, that Balch's work for WILPF and the League of Nations was closer to the status quo in 1946 than it was in the 1920s or 1930s. Balch's acceptability in that later era occurred because Balch did not openly oppose World War II while she had vehemently opposed World War I. As the League of Nations was transformed into the United Nations at this later point in time, too, Balch symbolized the significance of women's work for peace...