This is the second in a series of articles about Quakers who’ve impacted the fields of education and contributed to global scientific, medical, political, or economic leadership. The first article was published on September 23 and covered Elise Goulding, Ezra Cornell, and Johns Hopkins.
Nitobe Inazo (1862-1933) was a Japanese Quaker who became the first Under Secretary General for the League of Nations. Nitobe was born into a samurai family on Honshu, the main island of Japan. While in college, he became a Christian and later a Friend. In 1884, He moved to the US for post-graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University. There he began attending Quaker meetings, telling friends, “I very much like their simplicity and earnestness.”
Nitobe formally became a Quaker in 1886. Through a Quaker community in Philadelphia, he met Mary Patterson Elkinton, whom he eventually married. While at Johns Hopkins, he assumed an assistant professorship at the Sapporo Agricultural College. He was required first to obtain a doctorate in agricultural economics in Germany. He received his first of the five doctorate degrees three years later from Halle University. After his wedding in 1891, he took up a teaching post at Sapporo College. He set up a secondary school in Hokkaido and became its headmaster. He and Mary also established a night school for poor working youth, known as the Distant Friend Night School.
Nitobe published books in English and German. His most well-known work is Bushido: The Soul of Japan, a series of essays that attempted to explain Japanese values to Westerners. Bushido means “the way of Samurai,” and it relates to traditional Japanese moral values. He was a champion of women’s rights in Japan and supported several women’s colleges, and he became the first president of the Tokyo Women’s Christian College. He was the Professor of Colonialism at the Tokyo Law Faculty. He was also on the faculty of Agriculture at the University of Tokyo and taught Colonial Studies.
In 1911, Nitobe was appointed as an exchange professor between the U.S. and Japan, funded by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He actively tried to neutralize the tension building against Japanese immigrants in the US, visiting many universities and delivering approximately 166 lectures. These lectures were collected and published in 1912 as The Japanese Nation: Its Land, Its People, and Its Life.
He is the only known Quaker whose picture is on his country’s currency; his face can be seen on the 5000 yen note. Late in life, Nitobe served as an Under Secretary General of the League of Nations from 1920 to 1927. In 1933, he collapsed and died in Victoria, Canada, where there is now a Nitobe Memorial Garden. Japan Yearly Meeting later established the annual “Nitobe Inazo Memorial Lecture” in his honor.
Elizabeth Gray Vining (1902-1999) was an American librarian, author, and tutor to the Japanese royal family and nobility. She was born into a Quaker household, attended Germantown Friends School, and later studied history and literature at Bryn Mawr College(1923). She received a B.S. in library science from Drexel Institute in Philadelphia in 1926 (now Drexel University).
Vining was married to Morgan Fisher Vining, who was killed in an accident in 1933. After his death, she became more deeply connected to the Quaker faith, finding that silent worship’s healing power sustained her. She later joined the staff at American Friends Service Committee and was hired by Emperor Hirohito of Japan to tutor his son, Prince Akihito, and other children at the Imperial court from 1946 to 1950. The Emperor knew and thought well of Quakers, having been cared for by the Quaker, daughter of a friend of Inazo Nitobe. She was the first foreigner permitted inside the living quarters of the imperial palace, and published two accounts of her time in Japan; the bestselling Windows for the Crown Prince (1952) and Return to Japan (1960), a story of her return as a visitor to the country she had left ten years earlier.
In 1950, Vining was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, third class, for her work with the Imperial family. In 1959, she was the only foreign guest to attend the Crown Prince’s wedding to Michiko Shōda.
Vining was a well-known writer of juvenile fiction, publishing Adam of the Road under the name Elizabeth Janet Gray, which received the Newbery Medal in 1944. Other titles for children written by her include Meredith’s Ann, Tilly-Tod, Tangle Garden, Beppy Marlowe of Charles Town, Contributions of the Quakers, Young Walter Scott, The Fair Adventure, Penn, and Sandy.
Vining died in 1999 at Kendal-at-Longwood, a Friends retirement community in Kennett Square, PA, at 97.
Joseph Wharton (1826 – 1909) was an American industrialist and the fifth of ten children born into a prominent Philadelphia Hicksite Quaker family. He attended several local schools and two different Quaker boarding schools during his formative years before being privately tutored. In 1842 he was sent to relatives to study farming in Chester County.
After studying agriculture, Wharton returned to Philadelphia and refocused his business and commerce efforts, joining a brother’s unsuccessful ventures in cottonseed oil. After that business dissolved, Wharton began manufacturing bricks, but again was not very successful. By the mid-1850s, Wharton worked at the Lehigh Zinc Company near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, handling the mining operation and ultimately creating, then leasing back a zinc oxide division. This was the first of numerous business ventures that generated manufacturing profits and was the origin of his wealth.
He soon launched a second venture: the mining and production of nickel in the US. For several years he was the producer of one-sixth of the entire world output of malleable nickel. And is responsible for the metal being used to create coinage. He invested his profits into the Bethlehem Iron Company, parent of the great Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and grew that industry substantially.
Interested in the problems of his age, Wharton focused on the typhoid epidemic and the polluted Schuylkill, investing in a clean water rights project that never came to completion. The land and aquifer he purchased in the Pinelands, NJ, ultimately became the Wharton State Forest – the largest state forest in New Jersey.
Later in life, Wharton continued to branch out into most of the major industries of his time–iron, steel, railroad, farming, and fishing, becoming the President of the American Iron and Steel Institute. His research on metallurgy and economic matters was published extensively, and he was a vocal advocate for protective tariffs and international industrial competitions. In his private life, Joseph Wharton was active as a guardian and mentor to young people, particularly the children of his sister Mary Wharton Thurston.
Wharton’s Quaker beliefs fed his philanthropic drive to support higher education. In 1869, Wharton and his mother worked with a group of Friends (this group eventually included his future son in law Joshua Bertram Lippincott, the publisher) to found the Hicksite Swarthmore College in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Later, in 1881, with a gift of $100,000, he also founded the Wharton School of Business, to serve as a “School of Finance and Economy” at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wharton died in 1909. He was married to fellow Quaker, Anna Corbit Lovering, with whom he had three children:
- Joanna Wharton Lippincott (a Trustee of Swarthmore College)
- Mary Lovering Wharton
- Anna Wharton Morris (active in prison reform and other social reform movements)