Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why WILPF? Lessons from Emily Greene Balch and Mercedes Randall

I've begun reading an incredible book, Beyond Nationalism: The Social Thought of Emily Greene Balch. I feel a special connection to Ms. Balch, as she was an economics professor at Wellesley, my alma mater. The trustees fired her for her "radical peace activities." The closing of that door allowed her to become WILPF's first secretary general. Her work inspired the creation of Wellesley's Peace & Justice Studies department, which provided me a major and will soon be the employer of Catia Confortini, an amazing member of WILPF.

In any case, back to Emily. Her literary executor, Mercedes M. Randall, edited a volume of her essays and provided an introductory biographical sketch. This is an excerpt from page 32 of that sketch:
Emily Balch gave the best years of her life to the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, because it stood, as she conceived it, not so much for "peace" with its negative connotations, as for liberation from all that divides and separates men, for reaching out to one another, for building up together.

"Only connect," as E.M. Forster urged. Like Forster, Emily Balch believed first of all in personal relationships as something solid in a world full of violence and cruelty. WIth that as a starting point, order can begin to enter the contemporary chaos. To nourish one's own little light, one's own trembling flame, with the knowledge that it is not the only light shining in the darkness, to keep open a few breathing holes for the human spirit, to try to put Force back into the box where it belongs in order to make room for the great creative energies of mankind, this, for Emily Balch, as for E.M. Forster, meant what it was to be truly civilized and to justify the human experiment.
I remain inspired and emboldened by the precedent set by these two incredible WILPF leaders, Emily and Mercedes. And I urge everyone who agrees with this vision for the future, to join WILPF, and to create liberation through the League.