Who is Mrs. Shaw?

Mrs. Frederick Shaw
Founding Mother of Knight Memorial Library

The Knight Memorial Library opened in 1924, a legacy of Robert and Josephine Webster Knight dedicated by their four children. The finished library embodies the architectural grandeur of Providence at the turn of the century, looking backward to the peak of the city’s industrial prowess when the Knight family prospered in the textile industry, and forward to the education of coming generations.

The library itself, however, began more humbly with the efforts of Mrs. Frederick (Emma) Shaw, an Elmwood resident whose home still stands on Melrose Street. In 1915 she organized and solicited her friends for small donations, and within a few months collected enough to establish the Elmwood Public Library Association above the Greenwich Street fire station for the benefit of Elmwood’s children.

Mrs. Shaw was thus a Founding Mother of the Library. The Knight family made its architecturally magnificent contribution to educational progress already begun by local volunteers like her. The family left the library with its own endowment, which kept Knight Memorial Library independent until 1962 when it became part of the Providence Public Library. By 2009, however, Knight Memorial and other branches of the public library were threatened with closing and were saved yet again by grassroots volunteers who eventually came together to find funding for the Providence Community Library which now oversees nine branch libraries.

The extensive process of restoring the library’s historical significance and reconfiguring its spaces and programs to serve its diverse community in a new century has begun. As the library approaches 100 years of service, join in the volunteerism modeled by its founding mother.

It’s in this spirit of community engagement that the Friends of Knight Memorial Library have launched the Mrs. Shaw’s Fund, Amazon Wishlist to build the library’s collection. Our goal is to increase relevant reading materials for the library’s diverse and vibrant community.

Through the Mrs. Shaw’s Fund, you can personally contribute to the Knight Memorial Library Collection.

To begin, navigate to the Wish List where you can browse the list of books and make your selection. In honor of Knight Memorial Library’s rich history of community support, we have created a decorative bookplate for your custom dedication.

How to donate a book

Refer to the links on the left to select specific book categories.

PLEASE order only new copies and select ship directly to the library.

At Checkout, please include your name, mailing address, and email in the Gift Message so that we can properly thank you and send a tax receipt.

To have your donation recognized with a bookplate, please include whether the book is in your name or in Honor/Memoriam of another person.

See All On Amazon


All books donated to the Mrs. Shaw’s Fund will be labeled with a commorative Bookplate. When checking out on Amazon, please include a gift note with your name, mailing address, and email, and whether the book is in your name or in Honor/Memoriam of another person.

Jen Corace is an artist and freelance illustrator who lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island. Originally from the suburbs of southern New Jersey, she eventually made her way to the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a BFA in illustration. Her bookplate captures the bold action and community spirit responsible for the creation of The Elmwood and Knight Memorial Libraries.