Guide to the Jenny Knauss Papers

Collection Title: Jenny Knauss Papers
Dates: 1950-2005
Identification: MS 162
Creator: Knauss, Jenny
Extent: 13 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: Jenny Knauss, a member of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, worked primarily on women’s education, health issues and day care. She also served as the director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health for two decades, from 1983-2002. The Jenny Knauss Papers consist of personal material and files and fill 13 boxes, arranged in 4 series: Correspondence; Personal Planners; Miscellaneous Materials; and Photographs. The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence, mostly between Jenny and her family members.
Processing Information: Processed by Jason Nargis in 2010.
Separated Materials: 9 issues of the magazine "Health & Medicine: Journal of the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group" were removed and cataloged separately.2 inches of material and 4 3.5 floppy discs were removed and added to MS 138, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health collection..25 inches of material removed and added to MS 93, Jenny Knauss/Chicago Women’s Liberation Union collection.Approximately 20 pamphlets and other printed items were removed and cataloged separately in the Femina pamphlets and Political pamphlet collections. A note was included in the record linking them to the Jenny Knauss Papers.1 inch of duplicate material was removed form the collection.
Preferred Citation: Jenny Knauss Papers, Manuscript Series 162, Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library
Related Materials: Jenny Knauss Collection, MS 93Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, MS 138
Repository: Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL,
Phone: 847-491-3635

Biographical/Historical Information

Jenny Knauss was born Jennifer Lilian Margret Dobbin on February 23, 1937 in Melbourn, a village near Cambridge, UK. Her parents were Marjorie Alice Louise Dobbin (formerly Webb) and Robert Raymond Dobbin. Some of her earliest memories were of Nazi bombings during World War II, when fire aimed at the nearby military installation strayed across the road onto the family farm.

She was initially home-schooled by her mother, an infant teacher, and then a private tutor, before attending the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge from 1945-1954. She studied Modern History at Somerville College, Oxford, graduating in 1958 with second-class honors. From 1958-1960 she was a graduate student in Somerville College, preparing a Ph.D. thesis on West African History in the period before independence from British rule, and also worked at the Commonwealth Institute at Oxford.

From 1960-1961 she was a staff member at the Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. She lectured in the History Department at the University of Ibadan from 1961-1933 and then in the History Department at the University of Ghana in Accra from 1963-1964. She married Peter Knauss in August of 1964 in Accra.

In 1965 she entered the African Studies Program at Northwestern University and continued work on her doctorate. In 1966 and 1967 she became involved with the New Universities Conference where she met some women who were planning on forming the Chicago Women's Liberation Union (CWLU), a feminist, equal-rights organization. Around this time her interests shifted from Africa to women in recent American history and she left Northwestern without finishing her degree to work on organizing precursors to the CWLU.

She had two children with Peter; her son, Orlando, was born on October 6, 1966, and daughter, Olivia, was born on November 5, 1969. Knauss and Peter separated soon after this.

In 1969 she was a founding member of CWLU, and remained active in the organization throughout its life (ended in 1976). Between 1968 and 1972 she supported herself and her children by teaching European and African History at Mundelein College in Chicago and history with a focus on women at Northeastern Illinois University and Roosevelt University, also in Chicago.

Knauss became co-director in 1972 of the Urban Preceptorship Program which was a healthcare advocacy project at the University of Illinois Medical School. Health workers, medical students, and nursing students would attend 8 week, full-time sessions in which they developed collaborative projects to improve healthcare access and equity in Chicago. Many women from this project joined CWLU, and some became active in related work to build women's health centers in the city.

Between 1978 and 1982 she worked at the Suburban Health Systems Agency in Oak Park, Illinois as an organizer and educator, training community agencies and schools in comprehensive health issues. During this time she developed into a nationally known and respected authority on women's health issues. In 1982 she became the founding executive director of the not-for-profit Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy, (later the Illinois Caucus on Adolescent Health or ICAH) and would lead the organization for nearly twenty years. Under her guidance the Caucus grew into an active and influential advocacy agency with a state-wide reach. Knauss wrote a history on the Chicago Women's Health Movement and collaborated with others on a history of the abortion service, JANE, entitled A View from the Loop.

Knauss met Don Moyer around Labor Day in 1982 and began living together shortly thereafter. The couple was married on July 5, 1983.

A serious brain injury suffered in Nigeria may have contributed to symptoms diagnosed as Alzheimer's disease in April of 2002. Knauss retired from the ICAH at the end of 2002 and went on to found an advocacy group with Moyer, named Alzheimer's Spoken Here in 2003. In March of 2004 Knauss and two Alzheimer's-diagnosed men were the first diagnosed persons to address a plenary session of the Alzheimer's Association Public Policy Forum. In July of 2005 Knauss addressed a plenary session of the Alzheimer's Association Dementia Care Conference.

In the fall of 2005 Knauss and Moyer organized a nationwide petition to get the Alzheimer's Association to include diagnosed persons in the planning process. The Alzheimer's Association formed an Early Stage Advisory Group which commenced activity January of 2006 and Knauss served on the first Group. There is a WGN channel 7 video clip of Knauss speaking about Alzheimer's at:

She is now a resident of a skilled-care facility in Baltimore, Maryland, close to where her daughter, Olivia, resides.

Scope and Content

The Jenny Knauss Papers fill 13 boxes and are arranged in 4 series: Correspondence; Personal Planners; Miscellaneous Materials; and Photographs. The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence, mostly between Knauss and her family members.

The collection was partially arranged by Knauss, with items separated into boxes by year, or groups of years. The earlier materials were more thoroughly arranged and organized, including the years of 1955 to around 1980. From that point on there was progressively less organization, until the 2000s when the materials were grouped together with no order.

A number of years (1955 to 1981) were transcribed by Knauss and some copies of these transcriptions are included in the folders. A CD-R in the collection holds copies of the complete transcriptions.

The correspondence is arranged chronologically, with incoming and outgoing letters interspersed. The collection includes a large number of letters sent from Knauss to her mother, Marge (Marjorie) Dobbin, and her sister, Deb (Deborah) Dobbin. There are also letters between Deborah and other family members. Marge Dobbin saved the majority of their correspondence and Knauss was able to collect it all together. Included is material which documents Knauss's early time in Africa; her marriage and early childrearing; time spent living in a commune in Chicago; the early days of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union; and her work with the Illinois Caucus on Adolescent Health (originally the Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy).

Often, non-correspondence material was included in the pre-sorted boxes. The original grouping was maintained, and material was for the most part kept in the folders with the correspondence since the events or material were sometimes referenced in the letters. Examples include research notes, speech drafts, interviews, and event flyers.

The personal planners document Knauss's day to day life and work and also sometimes contain research notes. The miscellaneous materials include passports; birth certificates; printed material relating to healthcare, feminism, and other themes; newspaper and magazine clippings; school materials from Knauss's two children; and more.

Several hundred photographs and negatives make up the photographs series. They document Knauss's personal and professional life, with the vast majority covering later family events and vacations (mostly in the U.K.). Some early photographs relate to Knauss's time in Africa.

Material in the Knauss Papers can be supplemented with the McCormick Library's extensive feminist book and periodical holdings, as well as with material from the topical W.E.F. ephemeral files.

Arrangement of Materials

The Correspondence and Personal Planner series are arranged chronologically. The Miscellaneous Material and Photograph series are arranged in approximately the order in which they were accessioned, which is roughly chronological.


Corporate Name

Chicago Women's Liberation Union

Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health

Illinois Caucus on Teenage Pregnancy

Jane (Abortion service)


Abortion services--Illinois--Chicago



Women's health services--Illinois--Chicago

Container List / Contents

  • Correspondence
    • Correspondence, 1955Box 1, Folder 1
        Scope and Contents: Oxford campus directory, 1955; Knauss essay on French North America, nd
    • Correspondence, 1956Box 1, Folder 2
    • Correspondence, 1956Box 1, Folder 3
    • Correspondence, 1957Box 1, Folder 4
    • Correspondence, 1958Box 1, Folder 5
    • Correspondence, 1959Box 1, Folder 6
    • Correspondence, 1960Box 2, Folder 1
    • Correspondence, 1960Box 2, Folder 2
    • Correspondence, 1961Box 2, Folder 3
    • Correspondence, 1962Box 2, Folder 4
    • Correspondence, 1963Box 2, Folder 5
    • Correspondence, 1964Box 2, Folder 6
        Scope and Contents: Life insurance certificate
    • Correspondence, 1965Box 2, Folder 7
        Scope and Contents: Timeline of 1965; notes for memoir? 1963-1965
    • Correspondence, 1966Box 2, Folder 8
        Scope and Contents: Timeline from diary; timeline for birth and early months of Orlando Knauss; notes/outline/bibliography for an essay?
    • Correspondence, 1967Box 2, Folder 9
        Scope and Contents: Folder holds two chronological runs: 1. letter to "Family Dobbins" from Jenny; 2. All other correspondence
    • Correspondence, 1968Box 2, Folder 10
        Scope and Contents: Timeline from diary?
    • Correspondence, 1969Box 3, Folder 1
        Scope and Contents: Some transcriptions w/ edits; timeline; list of clothing?
    • Correspondence, 1970Box 3, Folder 2
        Scope and Contents: Transcriptions; lists of letters
    • Correspondence, 1971Box 3, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: List of letters; syllabus/reading list/exam from class: "History and Politics of the Women's Movement"
    • Correspondence, 1972Box 3, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: Notes/outline on "Artists in Residence" program; syllabi/final exam for classes taught
    • Correspondence, 1973Box 3, Folder 5
        Scope and Contents: Nancy Spero interview notes; CWLU 1973 timeline; notebook w/ social justice and healthcare research notes
    • Correspondence, 1974Box 3, Folder 6
        Scope and Contents: CWLU timeline; diary entry list; Chicago healthcare research notes/bibliographies
    • Correspondence, 1975Box 3, Folder 7
    • Correspondence, 1975Box 3, Folder 8
        Scope and Contents: Copy of employment discrimination case brought by J. Knauss, September 1, 1975
    • Correspondence, 1976Box 3, Folder 9
        Scope and Contents: Class reading list; teaching notes?
    • Correspondence, 1977Box 4, Folder 1
    • Correspondence, 1978Box 4, Folder 2
    • Correspondence, 1979Box 4, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: Timeline draft; drafts of poems; notes on relationships and aging
    • Correspondence, 1980Box 4, Folder 4
    • Correspondence, 1981Box 4, Folder 5
        Scope and Contents: "Conversation with Carol, Good Friday 1981"; Arthur Farrand Radley bio; timeline; 2 cards w/ address information
    • Correspondence, 1982Box 4, Folder 6
        Scope and Contents: ICTP membership/board development committee duties notes; timeline
    • Correspondence, 1983Box 4, Folder 7
    • Correspondence, 1984Box 4, Folder 8
    • Correspondence, 1985Box 4, Folder 9
        Scope and Contents: Narrative of events in Sept. and Oct.; notecard with reminder list
    • Correspondence, 1986Box 5, Folder 1
        Scope and Contents: Holidays trip timeline/itinerary
    • Correspondence, 1987Box 5, Folder 2
        Scope and Contents: Lasagna recipe for Orlando
    • Correspondence, 1988Box 5, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: Notebook with Door County trip notes
    • Correspondence, 1989Box 5, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: Hotel list for Sidmouth; 2 notebooks with travel notes: April 13-17, Pere Maquette Park + photocopy and June 1989, Door County; notes on "The Children's Act, 1989"
    • Correspondence, 1990Box 5, Folder 5
        Scope and Contents: Notes on gender issue; list of flowers; Chicago architecture notes; British hotel information
    • Correspondence, 1991Box 5, Folder 6
        Scope and Contents: Notes on trip "Cornish Days, 1991"; 4 notebooks with travel notes: Pere Marquette Park, May 2-6, 1991; St. Joseph, MI, July 3-4, 1991; Key West, FL, December, 1991; August, 1991, U.K. Trip
    • Correspondence, 1992Box 5, Folder 7
        Scope and Contents: Notebook with travel notes: London/Cambridge/St. Ives, September-October, 1992
    • Correspondence, 1993Box 6, Folder 1
        Scope and Contents: 12 day travel schedule, England
    • Correspondence, 1994Box 6, Folder 2
        Scope and Contents: Partial draft of memoir by Judy Hoffman; travel notes from England trip, September-October, 1994; copies of photographs with notes from same trip
    • Correspondence, 1995Box 6, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: Miscellaneous notes
    • Correspondence, 1995Box 6, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: Photocopies of China trip notebook, August-September, 1995; handwritten China trip notes; Chinese currency bill; Mao button; Viet Nam doilly; draft of memoir, "Notes from the First Year" by Diane Horwitz; notes from Key West trip, December, 1995; notes from England trip?, April, 1995
    • Correspondence, 1996Box 6, Folder 5
        Scope and Contents: History of "Health Left Conference", November, 1996; copies of photographs of Jenny with President Clinton
    • Correspondence, 1997Box 6, Folder 6
        Scope and Contents: Speakers' notes for "Rachel's Funeral", July 20, 1997
    • Correspondence, 1998Box 6, Folder 7
        Scope and Contents: List of names (for R.R. Dobbin's funeral?); travel notes from Boston trip, September, 1998; notes on architecture and art
    • Correspondence, 1999Box 6, Folder 8
        Scope and Contents: "Notes in time on (woman symbol)" by Nancy Spero; notes and schedule for "Marge's funeral"; notes of memories of Deb (for funeral?)
    • Correspondence, 2000Box 6, Folder 9
    • Correspondence, 2001Box 7, Folder 1
        Scope and Contents: Murdoch/Nicol notes
    • Correspondence, 2002Box 7, Folder 2
        Scope and Contents: Sebastiao Salgado exhibit notes; notebook with UK trip notes, June, 2002
    • Correspondence, 2003Box 7, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: Handwritten calendars; miscellaneous notes; Jenny Knauss speech and notes for "11th Annual Alzheimer's Association Conference", July, 2003
    • Correspondence, 2004Box 7, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: Handwritten calendars; CV and notes; folder includes wedding invitations for Orlando Knauss and Rachel Combe
    • Correspondence, 2005Box 7, Folder 5
    • Correspondence, miscellaneous undated material, ndBox 7, Folder 6
    • Correspondence re: Majorie Dobbin's death, 1999-2001Box 7, Folder 7
    • Correspondence transcriptions, 1964-1969Box 7, Folder 8
  • Personal Planners
    • Personal Planners, 1953-1958Box 8, Folder 1
    • Personal Planners, 1961-1976Box 8, Folder 2
    • Personal Planners, 1980-1986Box 8, Folder 3
    • Personal Planners, 1987-1990Box 8, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: Wall calendar, 1990
    • Personal Planners, 1991-1996Box 9, Folder 1
    • 1997-2003Box 9, Folder 2
    • Personal Planners, Olivia Knauss, 1980-1986Box 10, Folder 1
  • Miscellaneous Materials
    • Identification materials, 1960-1981Box 10, Folder 2
        Scope and Contents: Family passports, birth certificates, and driving permits
    • Miscellaneous printed materials, healthcare, ca. 1983-2004Box 10, Folder 3
    • Miscellaneous printed materials, 1991-2003Box 10, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: British travel materials, exhibit materials, "U.S. Out of my Uterus" button, 1992
    • Miscellaneous printed materials, 1965-2007Box 10, Folder 5
    • Miscellaneous journals and printed materials, 1970-2003Box 11, Folder 1
    • Assorted clippings, 1970-2004Box 11, Folder 2
    • Recordings and data storage materials, ndBox 11, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: CD-R, "Jenny Knauss Transcriptions & Stories"; CD-R, Orlando Knauss graduation photographs; Audio CD, "Mountain Moving Day"; Cassette tape, "Jenny Part 1 & Part 2"
    • Jennifer Nelson Dissertation, 1999Box 11, Folder 4
        Scope and Contents: "From Abortion Rights to Reproductive Freedom"; includes notes and edits by Jenny Knauss?
    • Knauss children school materials, 1973-1978Box 12, Folder 1
    • Knauss children school materials, 1980-1989Box 12, Folder 2
  • Photographs
    • Photographs, ndBox 12, Folder 3
        Scope and Contents: Miniature book of Versailles photographs, 1950
    • Photographs, ndBox 12, Folder 4
    • Photographs, ndBox 12, Folder 5
    • Photographs, ndBox 12, Folder 6
    • Photographs, ndBox 13, Folder 1
    • Photographs, ndBox 13, Folder 2
    • Photographs, ndBox 13, Folder 3
    • Photographs, ndBox 13, Folder 4
    • Negatives, ndBox 13, Folder 5