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William Jeanes Memorial Library Controversy Papers

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-RG5-083

Scope and Contents

This collection includes legal papers, correspondence, and other materials relating to the William Jeanes Memorial Library Controversy concerning the hiring of Mary Knowles as librarian by the Library Committee of Plymouth Monthly Meeting. The collection contains background material concerning the William Jeanes Memorial Library, Plymouth Monthly Meeting, and Mary Knowles who was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1957 for refusing to answer questions arising out of the Jenner Committee (Senate Internal Security Subcommittee) and successfully appealed the conviction in 1960.

Dates

  • 1939-1961 [bulk 1953-1960]

Creator

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Rights Information

Permission to reuse, publish, or reproduce items in this collection beyond the bounds of Fair Use or other exemptions to copyright law must be obtained from the copyright holder or their heirs/assigns. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-RUU/1.0/.

Biographical / Historical

Mary (Ruth Gardner) Knowles was born in 1910 in Watertown, Massachusetts, and attended Bates College in Maine. She married Clive Dorman Knowles in 1933; they divorced in 1951. Mary Knowles worked for the Samuel Adams School for Social Studies, Boston, as an office secretary 1945-1948, and was certified as a librarian by the State of Massachusetts. In 1953, she appeared before the Jenner Committee (Senate Internal Security Subcommittee). Mary Knowles was hired by the Jeanes Memorial Library in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, in 1953, and became the focus of a McCarthy-era controversy. She was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1957 for refusing to answer questions arising out of the Senate subcommittee and successfully appealed the conviction in 1960.

Extent

1.5 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Language

English

Overview

Mary Knowles (b. 1910), a librarian at the William Jeanes Memorial Library in Plymouth, Pennsylvania, and Plymouth Monthly Meeting were the center of a “Red Scare” controversy in 1953-56 when Mrs. Knowles was accused of being a member of the Communist Party. Mary Knowles had pleaded the Fifth Amendment in 1953 before the Jenner Committee (Senate Internal Security Subcommittee) regarding her employment as secretary at the Samuel Adams School in Boston Mass. When she refused to take the Pennsylvania Loyalty Oath in 1954, the controversy and criticisms escalated. The William Jeanes Memorial Library was established in 1926 as a gift by Mary Rich Jeanes Miller, in memory of her first husband, granted to a Board of Trustees to be appointed by the Plymouth Preparative Meeting (Quaker), Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. By 1953, the Jeanes Library received much of its budget from various public sources. Mary Knowles was hired as a temporary librarian and became permanent in 1954. The Library Committee and Plymouth Monthly Meeting remained staunchly behind Mary Knowles's civil rights and retained her as librarian. She was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1955 for refusing to answer questions arising out of the Senate subcommittee. She successfully appealed the conviction in 1960. This collection includes legal papers, correspondence, and other materials relating to the controversy. It also contains background material concerning the William Jeanes Memorial Library, Plymouth Monthly Meeting, and the hiring of Mary Knowles.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into eight series:
  1. General background
  2. Correspondence of Mary Knowles
  3. Legal papers
  4. Printed material
  5. William Jeanes Memorial Library
  6. Plymouth Monthly Meeting
  7. Alerted Americans
  8. Miscellaneous

Physical Location

For current information on the location of materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donor: Plymouth Monthly Meeting, 1977

Mary Knowles, 1981

Stefan Thiemer, 1985

Related Materials

See also:
  1. Plymouth Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, RG 2
  2. Richmond Miller Papers, RG 5/105, Series 8

Processing Information

In 1981, Plymouth Monthly Meeting permitted its previously deposited papers on the controversy to be integrated with the papers of Mary Knowles. The collection were combined into a single Record Group 5 collection, sorted and filed in documents boxes. in 1985, a paper by Stefan Thiemer, “The Plymouth Monthly Meeting and the Case of Mary Knowles,” was added to the collection.
Title
An Inventory of the William Jeanes Memorial Library Controversy Papers, 1939-1961 [bulk 1953-1960]
Author
FHL staff
Date
1981
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English
Sponsor
Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries

Find It at the Library

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