An Inventory of the William Jeanes Memorial Library Controversy Papers, 1939-1961 [bulk 1953-1960]

(3 boxes; 1.5 linear ft.)

RG 5/083


© Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.  
Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081-1399 U.S.A.  

Seal of Swarthmore College
Table of contents
Abstract
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.

Background note:
BIOGRAPHICAL AND 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.

Scope and content
SCOPE AND CONTENT 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.

Arrangement
Arrangement The collection is divided into eight series:


Added entries

Subjects
  • Civil rights -- Religious Aspects -- Society of Friends
  • Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends- Civil Liberties Committee
  • Plymouth Meeting (Pa.)
  • Quakers - Controversy
  • Quakers --Pennsylvania -- Plymouth Meeting (Pa.)
  • Society of Friends - Controversies
  • Thiemer, Stefan. “The Plymouth Monthly Meeting and the Case of Mary Knowles.”
  • William Jeanes Memorial Library, (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) -- Library Committee
Additional Authors and Contributors
  • Knowles, Mary, 1910-
  • Plymouth Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Credits
Processed by: Finding Aid Prepared by FHL staff
Date: 1981
Restrictions: Use Restrictions Copyright has not been assigned to Friends Historical Library All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in to the Director. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Friends Historical Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by reader.
Sponsor: Encoding made possible by a grant by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation to the Philadelphia Consortium of Special Collections Libraries


Inventory

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE RECORDS
Notes
Note to Researchers: To request materials, please note both the location and box numbers shown below:

Ser. 1. General Background

Background material
Biographical material about Mary Knowles, general information about the William Jeanes Memorial Library, Plymouth Meeting, Pa., and summaries of the controversy resulting from hiring Mary Knowles as Librarian in 1953 with implications for the broader issues of civil and religious liberty.
(1 folder) Box 1

Ser. 2. Correspondence of Mary Knowles, 1953-1961

Correspondence 1953-1961 Box 1

Ser. 3. Legal papers, 1953-1960

Senate and court documents (with related papers) concerning Mary Knowles's appearances before the Senate Judiciary Committee and subsequent trial 1953-1960 Box 1

Ser. 4. Printed material, 1953-1961, n.d.

Press releases Box 2

Other printed material, mostly magazine articles Box 2

Newspaper clippings n.d. and 1953-61 Box 2

Ser. 5. William Jeanes Memorial Library, 1939-1961, n.d.

Correspondence
Mostly correspondence of the Library Committee, appointed by Plymouth Monthly Meeting.
1939-61 Box 2

Minutes of the Library Committee.
Rough drafts of occasional minutes from 1941-61; sketchy and very incomplete.
1941-1961 Box 2

Statements of the Library Committee Box 2

Financial statements and related material about the library Box 2

General information about the library Box 2

Ser. 6. Plymouth Monthly Meeting, 1955-1960, n.d.

Correspondence 1955-60 Box 3

Statements, including ones received from other Friends meetings Box 3

Ser. 7. Alerted Americans
The Alerted Americans were a right-wing group opposed to Mary Knowles.


Mimeographed statements by Helen Corson Box 3

Petition requesting replacement of Mary Knowles
Includes a summary and analysis, with packets of signatures at back of box.
Box 3

Ser. 8. Miscellaneous, 1954-1958, n.d.

Minutes and statements of other groups Box 3

General background material on defense of civil liberties, n.d. and 1954-58. Box 3

Thiemer, Stefan. “The Plymouth Monthly Meeting and the Case of Mary Knowles.”
Paper--gift of author, May 1985.
Box 3