Elizabeth Gray Vining was the first woman tutor to the crown prince of Japan after writing for AFSC publications.Photo: AFSC / AFSC Archives
Elizabeth Gray Vining, 1902–1999
A Philadelphia native and member of Germantown Monthly Meeting, Elizabeth Gray Vining published her first book for young adults at the age of 22, and went on to publish over 60 more in her lifetime. At the age of 42, Elizabeth wrote weekly releases on the activities of AFSC for Quaker papers and other religious publications, when she was selected to be the first woman to tutor the crown prince of Japan.
Her name had been suggested to the education commission by then Executive Secretary Clarence E. Pickett, who had visited Emperor Hirohito and heeded his request for help in finding an American tutor for the crown prince. After listing Elizabeth’s many accomplishments in a letter of recommendation, Clarence Pickett added that she was “one of the most lovely and cultured women that I have ever known,” but “she would not lift a finger to seek the appointment.”
Once chosen, the American press expressed Elizabeth’s position as an opportunity to spread the values of American democracy. But she was clear that this was an opportunity to build bridges: “I am not here in Japan as a missionary,” she declared. “I will present my views and let my pupil go on from there… I hope I can contribute to the peace and understanding of the world. The emphasis will be on a world without war, and on nations working together for peace.”