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Clive and Mary Knowles papers

Identifier: MC032

Scope and Content Note

Contains records documenting the lives and activities of Clive Knowles (Bates '33) and Mary Gardner Knowles (Bates '34), including correspondence, photographs, family materials, publications, and manuscripts written by Clive Knowles. Much of the correspondence series are letters to and from their son Jonathan Knowles, to and from each parent. There is also material relating to Clive Knowles' FBI record and family attempts to gain access to that. Most of the documents herein are originals; however, the photographs folders are copies (originals are still in the family's possession).


  • 1924 - 2008


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research with the exception of three files marked "restricted."

Use Restrictions

The collection is the physical property of Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library. Bates College holds literary rights only for material created by College personnel working on official behalf of the College, or for material which was given to the College with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication or other purposes that exceed fair use.

Historical Note

Clive D. Knowles was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1910. He graduated with honors from Bates College in 1933. He earned a master's degree in social ethics from the University of Chicago in 1934, and an S.T.B. degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1936. He taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for a year at the invitation of Benjamin E. Mays (Bates Class of 1920) and then dean of the Howard School of Religion. Ordained in the First Unitarian Church of Gardner, Massachusetts, Knowles served that church for a year before becoming executive director of the Massachusetts Labor Non-Partisan Political League.

After serving in combat during World War II, Knowles began a lifetime career in organized labor. He worked with the AFL-CIO in California, was an organizer with United Farmworkers alongside Cesar Chavez, and was also director of the Council of Carpenters. He devoted his life to help win equal pay and working conditions for minority groups in the workplace. After retirement, he was a ski instructor for five years with the Apache Mescalero Tribe of New Mexico. He spent the summers in Franklin, Maine, establishing the Molasses Pond Writer's Workshop, and with his daughter worked on production of the revival of Old Jed Prouty that played in coastal summer theaters. Author of the unpublished Passing Through: A Yankee Radical's Journey, he also wrote a memoir, No Man Can Live Without Hope (1994). He died in Sarasota, Florida, on February 27, 1996.

Mary Gardner Knowles was born in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1910. Graduating from Bates in 1934, she returned to Watertown to work in the library, and married Clive Knowles that same year. After taking time to raise a family, she returned to work at the Sam Adams School for Social Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1945. In 1947 she began work at the library in South Norwood, Massachusetts. She and Clive Knowles divorced in 1949.

In 1953, however, the activities of the Sam Adams School came to the attention of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, seeking to determine the extent of communist activity in the U.S. Knowles appeared before the subcommittee in 1953 and plead the Fifth Amendment when questioned. Despite the subcommittee taking no action against her, she was fired by the South Norwood library. Later that year she moved to Philadelphia and began work at the William Jeanes Memorial Library, on a part-time basis. Mary eventually was made director, and worked at the Jeanes Library until her retirement in 1979. She eventually moved to California, and died in November, 1997.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Contains records documenting the lives and activities of Clive Knowles (Bates '33) and Mary Gardner Knowles (Bates '34), including correspondence, photographs, family materials, publications, and manuscripts written by Clive Knowles.


The collection is arranged into three series: I. Correspondence; II. Personal and Family records; III. Manuscripts

Acquisition and Custody Information

No provenance information available for the original part of this collection, the manuscript for "Passing Through." (Accession No.: xx-062.) The remainder of the materials were donated by Jonathan Knowles, son of Clive and Mary Knowles. (Accession No.: 2022-033.)

Processing Information

Collection re-processed by Pat Webber, 2023.

Guide to the Clive and Mary Knowles papers, 1924-2008
Edited Full Draft
Pat Webber
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
Description is in: English
Edition statement

Repository Details

Part of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library Repository

70 Campus Avenue
Lewiston Maine 04240 United States of America
207-755-5911 (Fax)