Twenty Years at Hull House: With Autobiographical Notes

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Jane Addams was born in Cedarville, Illinois Her mother died when she was two, and she was raised by her father and, later, a stepmother She graduated from Rockford Female Seminary in 1881, among the first students to take a course of study equivalent to that of men at other institutions Her father, whom she admired tremendously, died that same year, 1881.Jane Addams attended Woman s Medical

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  • Paperback
  • 248 pages
  • Twenty Years at Hull House: With Autobiographical Notes
  • Jane Addams
  • English
  • 20 December 2018
  • 9781406504927

10 thoughts on “Twenty Years at Hull House: With Autobiographical Notes

  1. says:

    After reading Atlas Shrugged I spent a year in the circle jerk libertarian mindset Then I picked up this book and it slapped me silly and told me I was an idiot and completely ignorant of the way the world worked If I had to pick out one book that made me a better person, it s this one.

  2. says:

    This book has been read and reviewed a lot, so this won t really be a review so much as a short reflection I came to Jane Addams late, after first encountering her sort of peripherally through the guy all educators are introduced to, John Dewey, one of her best friends, who wrote Democracy and Education and Experience and Education and close to 90 other books One of the greatest thinkers of all time, with great ideas But I am quite sure he would not have been able to write as he does without Addams Dewey, like William James, was a pragmatist philosopher, which is to say they were opposed to typical abstract analytical philosophy Their approach was pragmatic or utilitarian What possible effects in the real world do your believing one thing over another have What good is it to think that way So what A show me anti philosophy, a method of thinking of ideas than philosophy, really But James and Dewey are, for all of their useful approaches and ideas, not that engaging as writers They write as philosophers Addams is a storyteller, a social worker, with no time for abstract discussions Dewey and James talked and Addams walked, or she walked the talk She DID pragmatism and they watched her do it and refined their ideas through her actions She refined her ideas herself through her work there at Chicago s Halsted Street Hull House Settlement She came in with ideas, realized she didn t know what she was doing, began to listen to everyone there in this community and shaped the settlement in terms of a conversation, not her own preconceived notions of social change.And Twenty Years at Hull House, one of her several books, is a memoir of the first twenty years of her work with many other people Addams won international acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize and she deserved all the honors she got, but she could not have done it without Marxist labor activist Florence Kelley and so many others who shaped and reshaped her views They did it together She was disrespected by the academics and the just foreign disciplines like sociology, and the University of Chicago in particular because she was a WOMAN and a storyteller in a time that is also true today when story was seen as less than rigorous and scientific We need Addams than ever My students in this most recent class were astonished by her story and feel in love with her and what she has to say today about social action and reform and justice for the poor, for immigrants This happens every time I teach her work Highly recommended for anyone doing work in similar areas.

  3. says:

    I first learned of Jane Addams and Hull House when I read the biography of Frances Perkins FDR s Labor Secretary and the first woman to serve on the Cabinet because she got her start in social work as a Hull House resident The philosophy of the place was to house and serve the poor, but its founder Jane Addams and residents like Frances Perkins lived there, too, without class distinction Many of the beneficiaries were immigrants and were therefore educated by the American born residents, but the American born residents, and certainly Jane Addams, were open to learning from the immigrants, too It was an egalitarian approach, and Addams wrote eloquently about the problems of class privilege, particularly for young women They were educated on noble and democratic values and spared from much menial labor, but without it, they were losing touch not just with life for the less privileged but with essential parts of themselves And if they went on, as Frances Perkins did, to become managers of social services, they had already become accustomed to seeing the problems and their solutions from the bottom up and not the top down Another Goodreads reviewer said that he used to be a libertarian, but then he read Addams descriptions of working conditions in the days before the child labor laws and the eight hour workday, and that slapped him silly and set him straight This book will definitely have that effect on you, even if you don t lean libertarian You will also be tremendously impressed by Jane Addams for what she accomplished She was both supremely kind yet completely down to earth In the course of the book, she visits Leo Tolstoy at his collective farm in Russia He influenced not just her, but Gandhi, the kibbutz movement, and Dorothy Day s Catholic Worker movement, which is a heck of a track record, but he came across as self righteous when he chastised her for having too much fabric on her shirt sleeves I can t imagine Jane Addams ever doing that to anybody.The one flaw in this book is the stiff prose style Jane Addams was no Jane Austen So while this isn t a very long book, it can be a slow read This particular edition was especially bad because there were no tabs, so new paragraphs kind of snuck up on me Call me a nitpicker, but that bogged me down Even still, I recommend the book just for what Jane Addams accomplished at Hull House This country, if not the world at large, needs Hull Houses.

  4. says:

    The first part of this book is simply beautiful In it Addams provides a strange and insightful look at what it was like to grow up the daughter of a well off miller in rural Cedarville, Illinois in the 19th century Surprisingly for a Victorian era social reformer, she s eminently relatable and self reflective She describes in detail things like a nightmare she had as a young girl where everyone in the world was dead except her, and the world depended upon her solitary work as a blacksmith to start it up again She is able to recognize in this the early delusions of grandeur so common to children, and a sense of her own impotence she carried into the women s seminary and beyond She discusses how her later educational tours of Europe furthered her charitable and democratic sensibilities along with her hope for a non religious cathedral of humanity to unite all mankind , and yet she also realizes that this excessive education was only part of what Tolstoy called the snare of preparation, that chilling sense that infinite training only impedes real life and action Addams saw that she and the other over educated and underemployed women of her generation needed real vigorous action, especially in public life, to feel like worthwhile members of society So, she starts the Hull Street Settlement House Overall, it is the best psychological description of what motivated a Progressive reformer, or just a charitable life, that I ve ever read.Unfortunately, the other half of the book tends to ramble She certainly has loads of interesting stories, from the time Hull House challenged its corrupt local aldermen in the Chicago city elections, to the time they set up a Museum of Labor to teach immigrant children about their parents crafts in the Old World, to the time she visited that Mecca of reformers, Tolstoy s farm at Yasnaya Polyana in Russia he eats a porridge of gruel with them after coming in from working on the farm with his peasants He is less than personable But most of these stories have a predictable pattern they are finished in two pages and then move on to an almost completely unrelated one Some, like her attempts to pass a law forbidding pharmacies from selling cocaine to minors, are interesting, others, less so.I highly recommend reading the first half, and the second you can take or leave It s 50% a classic.

  5. says:

    As with all of my very favorite books, it s difficult for me to put into words what Twenty Years at Hull House meant to me Although I am not generally a big annotator, I was kicking myself for checking this out of the library and not having bought my own copy so that I couldn t underline, write notes, etc At the same time, I couldn t keep myself from reading it until I bought a copy All in all this was not too upsetting, because I definitely intend to read this book again in the future, probably than once.The clearest thing that I can say is that Jane Addams is the first historical figure I have ever encountered who I really consider to be a role model There are plenty of historical figures who I admire, respect, or even look up to, but what makes JA different for me is that I see in her the best possible version of my own type of character She is someone who I feel I can truly aspire to be like because to be like her wouldn t require any fundamental changes to my values, beliefs, or circumstances only to make the most of them When I read her writing, on nearly every subject, I find myself both agreeing and feeling like she is expanding my understanding, sort of like talking to a good friend.I would strongly encourage anyone to read this book It s actually old enough that it s in the public domain and available for free online , but I ll warn you that you might wish you had a margin to take notes in I d also encourage reading the entry on her in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online, which was the first place where I really encountered her.She speaks much eloquently for herself, but I ll give a little description of what I find so compelling here She lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and founded a settlement called Hull House in the immigrant slums of Chicago It s not easy to give a concise definition of a settlement, because part of what s important is that it be multifarious and always open to experimentation, but at its most basic the idea is that it is a place where people from privileged backgrounds live in an underprivileged neighborhood, hopefully to the benefit of both Hull House was a center for all sorts of social, intellectual, and artistic programs, really an innovator in many things that have today the government has taken on I like JA for her pragmatism She spends a fair amount of time in the book talking about Tolstoy, who took a much extreme position on poverty and walked the walk , but ends up finding herself parting ways with him I also like her for her commitment to applied work In some ways this may have been forced on her by cultural circumstances being a woman in the early twentieth century , but I also think it s an important part of her character As the SEP article shows, she was an accomplished philosopher in her own right, as creative a thinker as her friend John Dewey for example In my opinion she walked the perfect line between intellectual and practitioner Aside from my deep admiration for JA herself, I also took away from this book an interesting perspective on American history Much of her writing on social issues seemed almost shockingly modern to me in its concerns for instance the passages on public education She also spends a significant amount of time writing about Abraham Lincoln, who was a major intellectual and character influence on her, and this section drew for me a sense of continuity from Lincoln and abolitionism through the Progressive era that I had never seen or thought about before.

  6. says:

    She taught the poor Shakespeare, and they loved it Great work by one of my favorite feminists during an era when feminists were not welcome most places Lincoln wrote to Ms Addams, saying that she and her father were The double D Addams Lincoln noticed everything I am always surprised when a school is named Jane Addams, and no one seems to know a thing about Jane Addams Hopefully, someone at all the schools will fall in love with Jane Addams once her story is uncovered This book does a great job in describing why she was so important Bennie Goodman learned how to play the clarinet I m pretty sure it was a clarinet thanks to Addam s Hull House.My mom and sisters visited Hull House, and we LOVED being there Hull House rocks, but the roads leading there are a bit overwhelming Chicago needs to have a bus labeled Stops only for people coming or going from the Hull House.

  7. says:

    I truly believe that I should be given some sort of prize for reading this book It was an incredible bore and many times I found myself half way down the page when, to my chagrin, I would realize I d been thinking about what I d make for dinner and I d have to start all over again at the top Other times I just plunged ahead There were a few amusing bits such as when Miss Addams gloats over her achievement of getting Chicago drug stores to stop selling cocaine to children.

  8. says:

    Some scattered thoughts I don t often have a desire to meet authors, even of my favorite books, because I can t imagine what we d talk about really But Jane Addams is somehow a different matter her graciousness shines through her writing and her concerns for each individual among the urban masses, her eye for their potential, whether nourished in wealth or stunted in poverty or vice versa, and her creativity in seeking if not solution, at least amelioration, to struggle or wound She was a remarkable woman In her words I see continued, though not continuously naive, hope along with an intention to keep walking forward in her work, no matter what new challenge arose In her work there is such a close acquaintanceship with the people she seeks to serve in community So much of what she wrote I ve seen spoken and written of in current development circles and in new monasticism writings as new or at least not seen for a few centuries a good reminder of the words of Ecclesiastes, but also an encouragement that, even if not new, there is sometimes something to be said for tried and true This book is what it claims to be not theory but an account of various kinds of efforts springing from Hull House, its residents and environs It is not jaw dropping, and is often ordinary, and yet through that it leaves behind its inspiration Some passages that struck me in various ways I m leaving out that her 6th chapter in its entirety is a fascinating reprint of a speech she gave toward the beginning of her time at Hull House.Chapter 12 TolstoyismWe had letters of introduction to Mr and Mrs Aylmer Maude of Moscow, since well known as the translators of Resurrection and other of Tolstoy s later works, who at that moment were on the eve of leaving Russia in order to form an agricultural colony in South England where they might support themselves by the labor of their hands We gladly accepted Mr Maude s offer to take us to Yasnaya Plyana and to introduce us to Count Tolstoy, and never did a disciple journey toward his master with enthusiasm than did our guide When, however, Mr Maude actually presented Miss Smith and myself to Count Tolstoy, knowing well his master s attitude toward philanthropy, he endeavored to make Hull House appear much noble and unique than I should have ventured to do Tolstoy, standing by clad in his peasant garb, listened gravely but, glancing distrustfully at the sleeves of my traveling gown which unfortunately at that season were monstrous in size, he took hold of an edge and pulling out one sleeve to an interminable breadth, said quite simply that there was enough stuff on one arm to make a frock for a little girl, and asked me directly if I did not find such a dress a barrier to the people I was too disconcerted to make a very clear explanation, although I tried to say that monstrous as my sleeves were they did not compare in size with those of the working girls in Chicago and that nothing would effectively separate me from the people than a cotton blouse following the simple lines of the human form even if I had wished to imitate him and dress as a peasant, it would have been hard to choose which peasant among the thirty six nationalities we had recently counted in our ward Fortunately the countess came to my rescue with a recital of her former attempts to clothe hypothetical little girls in yards of material cut from a train and other superfluous parts of her best gown until she had been driven to a firm stand which she advised me to take at once But neither Countess Tolstoy nor any other friend was on hand to help me out of my predicament later, when I was asked who fed me, and how did I obtain shelter Upon my reply that a farm a hundred miles from Chicago supplied me with the necessities of life, I fairly anticipated the next scathing question So you are an absentee landlord Do you think you will help the people by adding yourself to the crowded city than you would by tilling your own soil This new sense of discomfort over a failure to till my own soil was increased when Tolstoy s second daughter appeared at the five o clock tea table set under the trees, coming straight from the harvest field where she had been working with a group of peasants since five o clock in the morning, not pretending to work but really taking the place of a peasant woman who had hurt her foot She was plainly much exhausted, but neither expected nor received sympathy from the members of a family who were quite accustomed to see each other carry out their convictions in spite of discomfort and fatigue The martyrdom of discomfort, however, was obviously much easier to bear than that to which, even to the eyes of the casual visitor, Count Tolstoy daily subjected himself, for his study in the basement of the conventional dwelling, with its short shelf of battered books and its scythe and spade leaning against the wall, had many times lent itself to that ridicule which is the most difficult form of martyrdom That summer evening as we sat in the garden with a group of visitors from Germany, from England, and America, who had traveled to the remote Russian village that they might learn of this man, one could not forbear the constant inquiry to one s self, as to why he was so regarded as sage and saint that this party of people should be repeated each day of the year It seemed to me then that we were all attracted by this sermon of the deed, because Tolstoy had made the one supreme personal effort, one might almost say the one frantic personal effort, to put himself into right relations with the humblest people, with the men who tilled his soil, blacked his boots, and cleaned his stables Doubtless the heaviest burden of our contemporaries is a consciousness of a divergence between our democratic theory on the one hand, that working people have aright to the intellectual resources of society, and the actual fact on the other hand, that thousands of them are so overburdened with toil that there is no leisure nor energy left for the cultivation of the mind We constantly suffered from the strain and indecision of believing this theory and acting as if we did not believe it, and this man who years before had tried to get off the backs of the peasants, who had at least simplified his life and worked with his hands, had come to be a prototype to many of his generation So farfrom considering his time too valuable to be spent in labor in the field or in making shoes, our great host was too eager to know life to be willing to give up this companionship of mutual labor One instinctively found reasons why it was easier for a Russian than for the rest of us to reach this conclusion the Russian peasants have a proverb which says Labor is the house that love lives in, by which they mean that no two people nor group of people can come into affectionate relations with each other unless they carry on together a mutual task, and when the Russian peasant talks of labor he means labor on the soil, or, to use the phrase of the great peasant, Bondereff, bread labor Those monastic orders founded upon agricultural labor, those philosophical experiments like Brook Farm and many another have attempted to reduce to action this same truth Tolstoy himself has written many times his own convictions and attempts in this direction, perhaps never tellingly than in the description of Levin s morning spent in the harvest field, when he lost his sense of grievance and isolation and felt a strange new brother hood for the peasants, in proportion as the rhythmic motion of his scythe became one with theirs With that inner sense of mortification with which one finds one s self at difference with he great authority, I recalled the conviction of the early Hull House residents that whatever of good the Settlement had to offer should be put into positive terms, that we might live with opposition to no man, with recognition of the good in every man, even the most wretched We had often departed from this principle, but had it not in every case been a confession of weakness, and had we not always found antagonism a foolish and unwarrantable expenditure of energy The conversation at dinner and afterward, although conducted with animation and sincerity for the moment stirred vague misgiving within me Was Tolstoy logical than life warrants Could the wrongs of life be reduced to the terms of unrequited labor and all be made right if each person performed the amount necessary to satisfy his own wants Was it not always easy to put up a strong case if one took the naturalistic view of life But what about the historic view, the inevitable shadings and modifications which life itself brings to its own interpretation 191 6 I remember that through the sight of those toiling peasants in the fields in Germany, seen on the trip back to western Europe , I made a curious connection between the bread labor advocated by Tolstoy and the comfort the harvest fields are said to have once brought to Luther when, much perturbed by many theological difficulties, he suddenly forgot them all in a gush of gratitude for mere bread, exclaiming, How it stands, that golden yellow corn, on its fine tapered stem the meek earth, at God s kind bidding, has produced it once again At least the toiling poor had this comfort of bread labor, and perhaps it did not matter that they gained it unknowingly and painfully, if only they walked in the path of labor In the exercise of that curious power possessed by the theorist to inhibit all experiences which do not enhance his doctrine, I did not permit myself to recall that which I knew so well that exigent and unremitting labor grants the poor no leisure even in the supreme moments of human suffering and that all griefs are lighter with bread 196 Chapter 13 Activities and InvestigationsIt was at the end of the second year that we received a visit from the warden of Toynbee Hall and his wife, as they were returning to England from a journey around the world They had lived in East London for many years, and had been identified with the public movements for its betterment They were much shocked that, in a new country with conditions still plastic and hopeful, so little attention had been paid to experiments and methods of amelioration which had already been tried and they looked in vain through our library for blue books and governmental reports which recorded painstaking study into the conditions of English cities They were the first of a long line of English visitors to express the conviction that many things in Chicago were untoward not through paucity of public spirit but through a lack of political machinery adapted to modern city life This was not all of the situation but perhaps no casual visitor could be expected to see that these matters of detail seemed unimportant to a city in the first flush of youth, impatient of correction and convinced that all would be well with its future The most obvious faults were those connected with the congested housing of the immigrant populations, nine tenths of them from the country, who carried on all sorts of traditional activities int he crowded tenements That a group of Greeks should be permitted to slaughter sheep in a basement, that Italian women should be allowed to sort over rags collected from the city dumps, not only within the city limits but in a court swarming with little children, that immigrant bakers should continue unmolested to bake bread for their neighbors in unspeakably filthy spaces under the pavement, appeared incredible to visitors accustomed to careful city regulations 207 9 The mere consistent enforcement of existing laws and efforts to their advance often placed Hull House, at least temporarily, into strained relations with its neighbors I recall a continuous warfare against local landlords who would move wrecks of old houses as a nucleus for new ones in order to evade the provisions of the building code, and a certain Italian neighbor who was filled with bitterness because his new rear tenement was discovered to be illegal It seemed impossible to make him understand that the health of the tenants was in any wise as important as his undisturbed rents 209 in this last one and in several other examples that she gives of similar obtuseness among landlords to be fair she also gives examples of landlords who were unaware of serious problems in the buildings they owned and, once made aware, sought than one creative solution to the problems , she never ceases to speak of them as human beings and, indeed, as neighbors foolish neighbors with serious problems on their doorstep, but neighbors nonetheless her tone remains charitable.It is these subtle evils of wretched and inadequate housing which are often most disastrous In the summer of 1902 during an epidemic of typhoid fever in which our ward, although containing but one thirty sixth of the population of the city, registered one sixth of the total number of deaths, two of the Hull House residents made an investigation of the methods of plumbing in the houses adjacent to conspicuous groups of fever cases They discovered among the people who had been exposed to the infection a widow who had lived in the ward for a number of years, in a comfortable little house of her own Although the Italian immigrants were closing in all around her, she was not willing to sell her property and to move away until she had finished the education of her children In the meantime she held herself quite aloof from her Italian neighbors and could never be drawn into any of the public efforts to secure a better code of tenement house sanitation Her two daughters were sent to an eastern college One June when one of them had graduated and the other still had two years before she took her degree, they came tot he spotless little house and to their selfsacrificing mother for the summer holiday They both fell ill with typhoid fever and one daughter died because the mother s utmost efforts could not keep the infection out of her own house The entire disaster affords, perhaps, a fair illustration of the futility of the individual conscience which would isolate a family from the rest of the community and its interests 210 1 In the earlier years of the American Settlements, the residents were sometimes impatient with the accepted methods of charitable administration and hoped, through residence in an industrial neighborhood, to discover cooperative and advanced methods of dealing with the problems of poverty which are so dependent upon industrial maladjustment But during twenty years, the Settlements have seen the charitable people, through their very knowledge of the poor, constantly approach nearer to those methods formerly designated as radical The residents, so far from holding aloof from organized charity, find testimony, certainly in the National Conferences, that out of the most persistent and intelligent efforts to alleviate poverty will in all probability arise the most significant suggestions for eradicating poverty In the hearing before a congressional committee for the establishment of a Children s Bureau, residents in American Settlements joined their fellow philanthropists in urging the need of this indispensable instrument for collecting and disseminating information which would make possible concerted intelligent action on behalf of children 216 Mr Howells has said that we are all so besotted with our novel reading that we have lost the power of seeing certain aspects of life with any sense of reality because we are continually looking for the possible romance The description might apply to the earlier years of the American settlement, but certainly the later years are filled with discoveries in actual life as romantic as they are unexpected If I may illustrate one of these romantic discoveries from my own experience, I would cite the indications of an internationalism as sturdy and virile as it is unprecedented which I have seen in our cosmopolitan neighborhood when a South Italian Catholic is forced by the very exigencies of the situation to make friends with an Austrian Jew representing another nationality and another religion, both of which cut into all his most cherished prejudices, he finds it harder to utilize them a second time and gradually loses them He thus modifies his provincialism, for if an old enemy working by his side has turned into a friend, almost anything may happen When, therefore, I became identified with the peace movement both in its International and National Conventions, I hoped that this internationalism engendered in the immigrant quarters of American cities might be recognized as an effective instrument in the cause of peace I first set it forth with some misgiving before the Convention held in Boston in 1904 and it is always a pleasure to recall the hearty assent given to it by Professor William James 216 7

  9. says:

    While I rate the book a three, I rate Jane Addams herself a five She was born privileged and after graduating from college and spending time in Europe she felt herself to be useless all this book knowledge but not doing anything actually of use in the world She always did want to live among and help the poor and this is what she eventually does She buys a big house in one of the worst neighborhoods in Chicago and sets out to be of use This book chronicles the first twenty years of the settlement house she founds, Hull House.They start out with a kindergarten and tackle problems from there.She explains It is natural to feed the hungry and care for the sick, it is certainly natural to give pleasure to the young, comfort to the aged, and to minister to the deep seated craving for social intercourse that all men feel In this way Jane Addams and her staff at the settlement house set out to see that a social infrastructure is put into place to accomplish these things Sometimes she is taken for a radical because she is calling for reformation in labor law, business practice, education, and enforcement of existing laws She is viewed with distrust by some businessmen and men in political power.She says this, There is a certain common sense foundation for this distrust, for too often the reformer is the rebel who defies things as they are, because of the restraints which they impose upon his individual desires rather than because of the general defects of the system When such a rebel poses for a reformer, his short comings are heralded to the world, and his downfall is cherished as an awful warning to those who refuse to worship the god of things as they are In discussion of these themes, Hull House was of course quite as much under the suspicion of one side as the other I remember one night when I addressed a club of secularists, a rough looking man called out, You are all right now, but mark my words, when you are subsidized by the millionaires, you will be afraid to talk like this The defense of free speech was s sensitive point with me, and I quickly replied that while I did not intend to be subsidized by millionaires, neither did I propose to be bullied by workingmen, and that I should state my honest opinion without consulting either of them To my surprise, the audience of radicals broke into applause, and the discussion turned upon the need of resisting tyranny wherever found, if democratic institutions were to endure The most amusing part of the book in my opinion was her visit to Tolstoy at his farm in Russia He was gruff and unfriendly, commented on the extravagance of her dress, called her an absentee landlord, ate black bread and gruel for dinner while his guests ate European food He asks her Do you think you will help the people by adding yourself to the crowded city than you would be tilling your own soil Jane is somewhat distraught and determines to spend two hours every morning at Hull House baking bread into order to do bread labor It is only when she returns to Hull House and sees all that needs her attention does she come out of her Tolstoy induced bread labor fixation and get on with all the social reforms and cultural programs etc that Hull House is involved in The existence of Hull House and its good works are her job, the baker at Hull House bakes the bread, and all is as it should be.Jane Addams deserves study and acknowledgement than she receives I don t recall learning about Settlement Houses nor about Jane Addams in school So many social changes were brought about because of her tireless efforts The last quarter of this book is hard to read as it reads like a dry list of accomplishments rather than a living story which is why I rated the book a three.

  10. says:

    In the unceasing ebb and flow of justice and oppression we must all dig channels as best we may, that at the propitious moment somewhat of the swelling tide may be conducted to the barren places of life 44.

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