Memorable Manitobans: Stanley Howard Knowles (1908-1997)
Cleric, MP (1942-1945), MP (1945-1949), MP (1949-1953), MP (1953-1957), MP (1957-1958), MP (1962-1963), MP (1963-1965), MP (1966-1968), MP (1968-1972), MP (1973-1974), MP (1974-1979), MP (1979), MP (1980-1984).
Born at Los Angeles, California on 18 June 1908, to Canadian parents Stanley Ernest Knowles and Margaret Blanche Murdock, he returned to Canada in 1924 to study at Brandon College (BA, 1930), United College (theology), and the University of Manitoba (economics and philosophy). He was ordained as a United Church minister and worked as a cleric at Kildonan United Church.
Defeated in the 1935 and 1940 federal general elections, as well as the 1941 provincial general election, he was elected a Winnipeg alderman in 1941, then to the federal House of Commons from Winnipeg North Centre as successor to J. S. Woodsworth in November 1942. He subsequently won 12 federal elections, in 1945, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1979, and 1980, losing only in the 1958 Diefenbaker sweep. He was Executive Vice President of the Canadian Labour Congress from 1958 to 1962. Knowles helped found the NDP out of the shards of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, having chaired the National Committee for a New Party from 1958 to 1961. He wrote The New Party (1961). He was noted for his mastery of the procedural rules of the House of Commons and was made an honorary officer of the House in 1984 so that he could sit at the clerk’s table. He often officiated at weddings, christenings, and funerals while not engaged in parliamentary duties.
On 9 November 1936, he married Vida Claire Cruikshank (1904-1978) at Westminster United Church. They had two children: Margaret Jean Knowles (wife of Robert Plaxton) and David Stanley Knowles (husband of Shirley Nelson). In recognition of his exemplary community service, Knowles received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), received an honorary doctorate from Brandon University (1967), and was inducted into the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1985) and the Order of Canada (1985).
He died at Ottawa, Ontario on 9 June 1997 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery. He is commemorated by the Knowles-Douglas Building at Brandon University, and Stanley Knowles School and Stanley H. Knowles Park in Winnipeg.
Obituary [Vida Claire Knowles], Winnipeg Free Press, 24 April 1978, page 197.
“Flag flies low for a great MP,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 June 1997, page 1.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 11 June 1997, page 49.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Nathan Kramer and Margaret Russell for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 30 October 2022