Elizabeth Gray Vining papers
Scope and Contents
The collection consists of correspondence, articles, photographs, and other materials which document the life of Elizabeth Gray Vining (1902-1999). Among her correspondents are Tane Takahashi, Shinzo Koizumi, Douglas MacArthur, Emperors Akihito and Hirohito, Clarence Pickett, May Sarton, and many others.
The materials include correspondence to and from Vining, information related to her published works, articles, and lectures and speeches, awards and degrees, photographs and clippings, the Gray family, Vining in Japan (restricted), photo albums, and sound disks. Correspondence includes letters both to and from Vining. Her correspondents were wide-ranging, and include family, people she met in Japan, and prominant members of the Quaker community; letters to Vining are organized alphabetically by author, while her correspondence is arranged chronologically. Published works, articles, and speeches cover a variety of topics and are from throughout Vining's life, filed chronologically. Awards and degrees includes materials from Bryn Mawr and Drexel, as well as Vining's Newberry Award materials. Memorabelia, clippings, and photographs includes information from throughout Vining's life, including her time in Japan. Vining in Japan includes Vining's letters and diaries from her time in Japan. Photo albums include images of Vining and the Japanese royal family from her time in Japan and later. Sound disks include speeches at Crown Prince Akihito's wedding and Vining on "This I Believe."
Researchers should be aware that the series regarding Vining's interactions with the Japanese royal family are restricted. As instructed by Elizabeth Gray Vining's will, scholars may read the restricted portions of the collection, but may not take notes on or publish materials in the collection.
Throughout the collection, there is substantial material about Violet Gordon Gray, Vining's sister who was 19 years her senior, and her friend Elizabeth McKie. Much of the material about Elizabeth McKie may be found in the correspondence and the Vining in Japan series. Material on Violet Gordon Gray is found in correspondence, Gray family, and Vining in Japan.
- Vining, Elizabeth Gray (Person)
The collection is open for research use. However, as instructed by Elizabeth Gray Vining's will, scholars may read the restricted portions of the collection, but may not take notes on or publish materials in the collection. Restricted materials are in boxes 16-22.
Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).
Biographical / Historical
Elizabeth Gray Vining (1902-1999), author of children’s books and tutor of the crown prince of Japan, Akihito, was born on October 6, 1902, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The daughter of John Gordon Gray, a manufacturer of scientific equipment, and Anne Moore Gray, Vining was raised in a family which loved to read. Although there were family ties to the Quaker religion, Vining was raised as an Episcopalian in Germantown, Philadelphia.
Vining graduated from Germantown Friends School in 1919, from Bryn Mawr College in 1923, and from Drexel University, with a degree in library science, in 1926.
In 1926, Vining moved to North Carolina to work as an assistant cataloger at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was there that she met Morgan Vining, who served as the associate director of the extension division of the University. They were married in 1929, the same year that her first book, Merediths’ Ann, was published. She continued to write children’s books, which were well received by the public.
In 1932, the Vinings moved to New York City, where Morgan Vining attended the Teacher’s College of Columbia University in anticipation of a degree in university administration. Elizabeth Gray Vining worked at the library of Columbia University. In 1933, Morgan and Elizabeth Gray Vining suffered an automobile accident in which Morgan was killed and Elizabeth was badly injured.
While recovering from her injuries, Vining turned towards Quakerism and formally joined the Society of Friends in 1934. At that time, she studied at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and worked with the American Friends Service Committee, offering her writing skills in their service. During the next decade, Vining continued to write both children’s books and books regarding the Quaker faith. In 1942, she published Adam of the Road, which won the 1943 Newberry Medal and is considered to be Gray’s masterpiece.
Following World War II, Vining was recommended as a tutor for the 12 year old crown prince, Akihito, the son of Japanese Emperor Hirohito. She served as his tutor for four years, from 1946 to 1950, and is credited as the person “who introduced the future ruler of Japan to the English language, and to the ways of Western democracy.” She eventually tutored the prince’s siblings and his mother, the Empress Nagako. She developed strong ties with the entire royal family which lasted the rest of her life.
After returning to the United States in 1950, Vining’s career as an author continued. By the time of her death in 1999, Vining had published more than thirty books, including two memoirs: Windows for the Crown Prince (1952) regarding her experiences in Japan and her autobiography, Quiet Pilgrimage (1970). Vining died on November 27, 1999 at the age of 97.
Carnes, Mark C., editor. American National Biography: Supplement 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Smith, Dinitia. “Elizabeth Vining, Tutor to a Future Emperor, Dies at 97,” New York Times, December 1, 1999.
Vining, Elizabeth. Quiet Pilgrimage. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1970.
14.5 Linear Feet (24 boxes, 8 volumes)
Elizabeth Gray Vining (1902-1999) was an author of children’s books and served as the tutor to the crown prince of Japan, Akihito, from 1946 to 1950. The collection consists of correspondence, materials regarding books authored by Vining, articles, lectures and addresses, photographs, and information documenting her and her family's lives.
Gift of Elizabeth Gray Vining, 1985, 1986, and 1999.
The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos; October, 2010. Reboxed and revised September 2020 by Ella Culton.
- Akihito, Emperor of Japan
- Education -- Japan -- History -- 1945-
- Hirohito, Emperor of Japan
- Japan -- Social life and customs
- Koizumi, Shinzō, 1888-1966
- MacArthur, Douglas
- Pickett, Clarence, 1884-1965
- Quakers -- Education
- Sarton, May
- Society of Friends
- Society of Friends -- Education
- Society of Friends -- Japan
- Takahashi, Tane, 1929-
- Vining, Elizabeth Gray
- clippings (information artifacts)
- manuscripts (documents)
- speeches (documents)
- Vining, Elizabeth Gray (Person)
- Elizabeth Gray Vining papers, 1897-1989
- Garrett Boos
- October, 2010
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project. Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- September, 2020: Reboxed and information updated by Ella Coulton
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