Emily Greene Balch was born in Boston, Massachusetts in January of 1967. Throughout her life she studied in more than five schools, was involved with numerous activism groups, and won a Nobel Peace Prize for her hard work.
She was born into a family who greatly valued education. Her father was Francis V. Balch and her mother was Ellen Noyes. Both of her parents believed that all of their children should cherish high moral and religious standards. Her parents played greatly influential roles in her success, as many of her accomplishments stemmed from her educational background. She first studied economics at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and was a member of its first graduating class. After earning her degree, she went on to study sociology. From there she was awarded a European fellowship to study economics in Paris.
Before attending her European fellowship, she worked in New York City to work under social reformer Jacob Riis. Later on, after her fellowship, she became paired with three fellow reform-minded women. This led to her assistance in founding the Boston Settlement Denison House, which served to provide education to many immigrants in the surrounding neighborhood. From there, her next step was to turn to teaching college students in order to further communicate reform.
In order to be qualified to teach at the college level, she studied partially at Harvard, University of Chicago, and even in Berlin throughout the next few years. With this, she was able to get a job at the all-women liberal arts Wellesley College. When she was first starting, she was only an assistant to an economics teacher. She would have been able to quickly climb the ranks of Wellesley if it was not for her “radical actions”. These actions were her investigations of women’s minimum wages with the Women's Trade Union League of Boston, which she co-founded as well as was the president of. Eventually, she was able to move up, and earn the position of chairman of sociology and economics at Wellesley College.
Two years later, she was an American delegate at the International Congress of Women alongside the likes of Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, and Lois Lochner at The Hague. A year after the International Congress of Women, Balch decided to take a two-year leave from Wellesley. The reason for her leave was to pursue pacifism, leading her to work with American Union Against Militarism as well as the Women's Peace Party. Upon her return to Wellesley in 1919, she was denied renewal of her contract due to outspoken views and radical behavior.
The response she got from Wellesley could have easily been predicted by her based on their previous response of holding her back from quickly achieving high ranking. Nonetheless, she pursued what she thought was right. She did not let her job stop her and she continued on with her strong beliefs, and that same year, she was once again a part of the delegation of the International Congress of Women where she was elected secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
In 1935 Wellesley invited Balch back to speak at an Armistice Day program. Even through her later years when she economically struggled, she still continued with her activism. When she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946, she donated her $17,000 share to the WILPF. Emily Greene Balch always stood for her beliefs and never stopped helping women, even when she needed help herself.