Elizabeth Gray Vining
Crown Prince Akihito and Elizabeth Gray Vining
Elizabeth Janet Gray
October 6, 1902
|Died||November 27, 1999 (aged 97)|
|Known for||Teacher of Emperor Akihito|
Morgan Fisher Vining
(m. 1929; died 1933)
|Awards||Newbery Award (1943)|
|Alma mater||Germantown Friends School |
Bryn Mawr College
|Institutions||University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill |
Bryn Mawr College
|Notable students||Akihito |
Masahito, Prince Hitachi
Elizabeth Janet Gray Vining (October 6, 1902 – November 27, 1999) was an American professional librarian and author who tutored Emperor Akihito of Japan in English while he was crown prince. She was also a noted author, whose children's book Adam of the Road received the Newbery Medal in 1943.
Elizabeth Janet Gray was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 6, 1902. She was a graduate of Germantown Friends School and received an AB from Bryn Mawr College in 1923. In 1926, she earned an MS in library science from the Drexel Institute, and became a librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.:1000 She married Morgan Fisher Vining, associate director of the Extension Division of UNC, in 1929. The marriage ended in 1933 when her husband was killed in a New York City automobile accident, in which Vining was severely injured. During her convalescence, she converted to the Quaker faith.
From 1946 to 1950 during the Allied occupation of Japan after the war, Vining was selected by Emperor Hirohito himself (and not the United States government, as is erroneously claimed) to become a private tutor to Crown Prince Akihito, the heir apparent to the Chrysanthemum Throne.: As part of her teaching program, she arranged for closely supervised occasions when four Western teenaged boys in Tokyo would get together to help the crown prince practice English conversation.
In addition to teaching English-language skills, Vining introduced the children of the Imperial Household — Prince Hitachi and the Princesses Kazuko, Atsuko and Takako — to Western values and culture. She also lectured at Gakushūin and at Tsuda College.
For her work, she was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, third class, shortly before her return to the United States in 1950.
After her return to the United States, Vining wrote a book about her experiences in Japan in Windows for the Crown Prince, which appeared in 1952. Vining went on to write over 60 fiction and non-fiction books in her lifetime. She also worked on the Board of Trustees of Bryn Mawr, as vice-president from 1952 to 1971 and was vice-chairwoman of the Board of Directors at the same time. In 1954 Vining received the Women's National Book Association Skinner Award,:1000 for "meritorious work" in her special field". She received an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Wilmington College in 1962.