In 1947 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded “to the Quakers, represented by their two great relief organizations, the Friends Service Council in London and the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia.” The Religious Society of Friends as a group had first been nominated for the prize as early as 1912, just eleven years after the award was founded. It was nominated again in 1923, 1924 and 1936. On each occasion the nominations were influenced by Quaker relief work with the victims of war and famine.

Quakers were at work in a world traumatized by World War II. They provided assistance wherever they found need, in Germany, elsewhere in Europe and in Asia. They offered relief without discrimination, just as they had in previous wars. On December 10th, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, founder of the prize, the Nobel Peace Prize was presented in Oslo to Margaret Backhouse, on behalf of Friends Service Committee (FSC), and Henry Cadbury, on behalf of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

In his presentation speech, Gunnar Jahn, the chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, spoke with appreciation of the work of Quakers in public campaigns for peace over the centuries:

Yet it is not this side of their activities - the active political side - which places the Quakers in a unique position. It is through silent assistance from the nameless to the nameless that they have worked to promote the fraternity between nations cited in the will of Alfred Nobel. …The Quakers have shown us that it is possible to translate into action what lies deep in the hearts of many: compassion for others and the desire to help them - that rich expression of the sympathy between all men, regardless of nationality or race, which, transformed into deeds, must form the basis for lasting peace. For this reason alone the Quakers deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize today. But they have given us something more: they have shown us the strength to be derived from faith in the victory of the spirit over force. And this brings to mind two verses from one of Arnulf Överland’s poems which helped so many of us during the war. I know of no better salute: “The unarmed only can draw on sources eternal. The spirit alone gives victory."


This history comes largely from nobelpeaceprize.org. More statistics and facts about the Nobel Peace Prize can be found here.