Western Friend logo

The Quaker Nobel Peace Prize

Mary Klein
On Reconciliation (January 2015)
Pages for All Ages

Some words and phrases to know before you read

Friends Service Council (England)

American Friends Service Committee (U.S.)                     

committee                              especially                               accept

organizations                         organize                                 pacifists

wounded soldiers                 field hospitals                        ambulance

nameless                                countless                                refugees

war-torn countries

But one thing always stays the same about Quakers during wartime. Many of them always choose not to fight. Many of them choose to help the people hurt by war instead. That is not true of many religions. That is something unusual about Quakers.

The Nobel Peace Prize is famous all around the world. Every year since 1901, the Nobel Prize Committee decides if someone should get the peace prize. The winner is the person who did the most that year to stop war and help peace.

The Quakers won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. They won it for their peace work during many wars – ever since Quakers began. But especially, they won the prize for the peace work they did during two Word Wars, from 1914 to 1945.

When the Quakers won the Peace Prize, two Friends went to Norway to accept it.  One was Margaret A. Backhouse, who worked for the Friends Service Council in England. The other was Henry J. Cadbury, who worked for the American Friends Service Committee in the United States. These two organizations led the peace work that Quakers did during the wars.

The Quakers did this work in many countries during  both World Wars and after. They helped people in Austria, England, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, Serbia, and more. They did not care which “side” the country was fighting on. They only cared that people were hurt by war. They wanted to help.

Some Friends worked for peace by going into the battles. The Friends Ambulance Unit was a group of Quakers who were pacifists. They would not fight in any war, but they would go into battles to pick up wounded soldiers. They helped set up field hospitals to care for soldiers and other people.

“The Quakers” are not one famous person who can win one prize. When the Quakers won the Nobel Peace Prize, there was a big ceremony in Norway. Gunnar Jahn was Chairman of the Nobel Committee, and he gave a speech to say why the Quakers had won. He talked about three hundred years of help  from Quakers to people hurt by war. He said that this help was “from the nameless to the nameless.” Quakers won the Nobel Peace Prize because countless Friends work for peace in small ways every day.

What kind of help do people usually want from you?

How can the world end war?

World War I World War II Pacifism humanitarian aid AFSC Nobel Peace Prize

Return to "On Reconciliation" issue