Aunt Betsey on Men’s view of Women’s Work

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

July 29th, 1861


Letter from Aunt Betsey.

The man that’s telling about his wife scolding on Mondays, is in a bid “pickle,” to be sure. I’d just like to be lookin’ in at the kitchen window next time his “A.” washes, and see how things do go on, for if he’s as much of a saint as a body would think from hearing his side of the question, he really ought to be translated away from all that “domestic discord and discontent.” As for his wife, she must be a dreadful cross woman, troubled with a drop of black blood in her heart, or something of that kind, if she can’t be satisfied when he tries to help her.

There’s precious few men that have the knack of helping a woman more than they hinder, but it always make [sic] good natured just to have Joshua try to help me, even if he knocked down twenty things where he picked up one, and put the fire all out trying to kindle it, ‘cause he showed his good will, and that’s the main thing. I don’t happen to be constituted so that I think a man isn’t a true man – or as near true as anybody gets to be in this world of mortal failin’s – if he don’t always see when he might do a chore to help his wife; for let folks that has boys to bring up, say what they will, and do what they will, to learn ‘em to do chores in the house, if it isn’t in them to be quick to see, and handy to do, they can’t be made over.

But about that scolding and feeling cross on wash days. There’s quite a number of reasons why a woman may feel out of sorts – some of the “Country Cousin” and the rest have given – and seeing that I’ve had the cares of a family (as you may know by my gray hairs), maybe I’m qualified to give a little bit of advice, too. It isn’t in human natur’ to really like to be sweating over a tub of hot suds and soiled clothes, breathing steam and scrubbing till shoulders ache and fingers are blistered; and the men would only have to try it a few times to find that it brought out some dirty streaks, even in their angelic natures; but when it has to be done, a body must make the best of it, and one way to do this is to begin with that first law, order. Know just what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it, then go ahead. If you do your work alone, get your breakfast and have things go on a near right as they generally do; if you go to snapping, you’ll be likely to get snapped at back again, and that’ll be a load for your heart to carry, a slight heavier than any your hands will find. Pick up things, and sweep your rooms, not as thoroughly as you generally do, if you have not the time, but still so that they’ll look decent, for if you’re naturally tidy, having your rooms look worse than usual will be one thing that’ll fret you. There’s something in your personal appearance, too. It’s all very well to have a wash-dress, but there’s no sort of use in having it torn half off the waist, ripped under the arms, or any such thing. I don’t blame men for not feeling much like helping a woman in such a rig, with her hair hanging down her back, like enough, and her face looking as sweet as could be expected in such a settling our; but if you look as well as you may, and ask as pleasantly as you can (if he don’t think to do it without asking) to have wood and water brought for you, you’ll be likely to get it. Then if you are sensible, you will be very glad to have your liege lord say, “Is there anything more we can do to hell you?” to which you will answer, “No, thank you;” and he will go to do his work and you to yours, neither of you to be disturbed by the other’s petty trials if you are wise enough to keep then to yourselves.


Hoping that the afflicted “A.” and his wife may be benefited by confiding their troubles to the public, I am, respectfully, your Aunt Betsey.



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Woman’s Rights and Aunt Betsy

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

May 11th, 1861


Woman’s Rights and Aunt Betsy

Seeing a communication from “O.” to Aunt Betsey, and feeling somewhat interested in the old lady, – of whom, by the way, I have some slight knowledge, – excuse the liberty I have taken of saying a few words on the subject, which shall be done with due deference for her gray hairs.

Our aunt, being country born and bred, has a heart, – a real, loving heart, that feels for others woes. She is ever ready to assist the needy or relieve the distressed, and as she is naturally of a very cheerful disposition, I think something must have happened, which “riled” her more than common, when she spoke of woman’s rights. Often does she gather us about her, and many are the words of wisdom which fall from her lips as she relates her experiences in order that we may profit thereby. She is called a kind, charitable person, and I beg you, “O.,” not to judge her by that conversation. I cannot agree with her, for to me life appears like the April day, all clouds and sunshine, and that “Woman’s Rights” are to guard woman’s home from the storms that oft will cloud the domestic sky, and so to arrange her culinary affairs that the “butter and honey” of forbearance and love, in place of being all used at once, shall be spread so evenly on the bread of everyday life. In such a home, the husband, instead of treading her “rights under his foot,” will feel that his right to cherish and protect her is the dearest one on earth. As for the wood and water, not true man will let his wife bring them in while he sits idle, and when he asks for his shirt, it is not because he knows your dislike to tumbled drawers; and does not his smile amply repay you for your trouble. Yes, indeed, and there’s another of your right, to win that smile, from your liege lord, by kindly deeds and pleasant words, and a true woman will value it more than all the rights of suffrage which can be granted her.

I do not wish to be understood as saying that there are no abused women, for alas, there are many such; but I cannot think “the best of men” will so far, forget their manhood as our aunt declares, – if so, oh shades of Horace, deliver me from such a fate. Better for us, Cousin O., to live the unloved, unloving old maid’s life, than the loving but unloved one of a husband’s slave.

Jennie. Dowittville, N.Y., 1861.


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Queries for Aunt Betsey

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

April 13, 1861

Queries for Aunt Betsey

Dear Aunt Betsey: – Will you allow one of the “girls” who hasread what you thing of “Woman’s Rights” to say a few words? I like to look at the bright side. Now, honored Aunt, I know that woman’s home is, in many respects, her “world,” and that there are many things to learn away from boardin’s schools and ‘cademys; but Aunty, do you really think we are all going to get our necks broken when we jump off that “precipice” you told up about? I know you did not exactly say so, but then, )we have no precipices on the prairies,) in all the stories we read about people jumping or falling off them, they are sure to get killed. Do you really think, too, that when we “get married” and “go tagging after a man,” we shall “never see him at home?” Are you sure he never will bring in a pail of water or an armful of wood? Will he never ask if there is anyting he can do to help us? Do you know he will be unable to find his own shirt, if we, (as we ought,) have a place for it and keep it there? Must we always leave the shirts till there are a dozen to mend? Do you think it will “take half an hour to find a needle” every time we want one? Is it imposisble to get along without a “honey moon”? – or, can we not have the “butter and honey” spread all over the bread rather than on one spot? Now, Aunty, I will know there will be a great many “briars and sticks.” But will he never help us over them?

If you are sure all these evils will befall me if I get married, your admonitions will save one of your nieces from a “woman’s fate.” Please tell me, Aunt Betsey.

Respectfully, your niece, O. Princeville, Ill., 1861.

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Woman’s Duties

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker
April 6, 1861

Woman’s Duties
My subject you may call a trite one, and such I fancy it will be unto the end of time, if the newspapers of our land continue, as persistently as ever, to herald forth the duties, obligations, and dependency of woman. I must say I have become perfectly disgusted with this constant prating. One might as well imagine that woman was utterly ignorant of her peculiar duties and adaptations, and that the rest of the race, in commiseration thereof, had set them selves up as her instructors. Now, with all due deference to the wondrous knowledge possessed by the “lords of creation,” it certainly seems to me that females are usually quite as intelligent as the other sex, and I imagine they know about as well how to “act well their part in life.”
We are told again and again, that home happiness depends mostly upon the wife, mother, sister, and daughter. Don’t we know this? Don’t we know that after a day has been spent in the discharge of the many wearisome household duties, and the husband and father, sons and brothers, return from their labor, or, as in frequently the case, from lounging in some public place talking politics, – listening to or retailing scandle, – don’t we know that, under such circumstances, some tact is necessary to meet dissatisfaction and discord with content and pleasantness? to have things so righted round, and straightened out, that home shall present a cheerful aspect?
Besides this, there is a wonderful cry among some about the dependence of woman upon man. It sounds in our ears from the Atlantic to the Pacific, – by priest and people. Why, they say, of course, they are particularly dependant [sic] upon us, – of course, they Bible says do. I have known men that could quoite only one passage of scripture correctly, and that you will find in Collossians, iiic, 18v. Moreover, common sense teaches it. If this is common sense, I am glad I was endowed with it.
Now, we know that we are, in some sense, dependant creatures, – that one person must rely, somewhat, upon another; but the wife is no more dependant on her husband, than he upon his wife. Supposing his earning do provide the provisions and clothing, what’s it all going to amount to if his wife does not know how to use these things to the best advantage? How is a man to gain wealth, if his wife or daughters spend faster than he can earn. Many a man has acquired wealth who never would but for the economy and thrift of his industrious wife, and many are struggling now to provide the mere necessities of life, who might have been prospering, had they, in the management of their business, heeded the advice of the wife. But, dear me, no, – they are not going to have a woman interfering in their affairs; and thus they often come to be dependant upon the exertions of their “better half,” for the support of themselves and families.
They talk to us, too, of our great influence upon society, – how essential it is that we should be models of purity and goodness, so that all who come within this magical influence shall be metamorphosed there-by. Now, how potent soever this may be in some cases, when I see the sons of some of the best mothers following so closely in the footsteps of upworthy fathers, I am convinced it is necessary somebody should be good besides the mother.
When clouds of darkness and sorrow surround the pathway, who endures best the blast of adversity, – is it man? Nay. In the severe trials of life, the stern man is often the soonest shaken, and finds himself dependent upon the weak woman for aid and sympathy, – the closest observers of human nature have testified to the truth of this.
Some talk much of the great necessity of woman being Christians. Is it because the soal of man is less precious, – because he is holier by nature, or because his responsibility to the Creator is less? – that he considers it so much more oblicatory upon females to yieled their wills to the Saviour? Such is not the case. They know that the influence of the Gosple is to make one meek, patient, long-suffering, under all circumstances, and such a spirit as this they like to deal with. One that will not conflit with their pet whims and might wills. In most instances, when you really probe to the bottom of the thing, you will find it is all selfishness which prompts this cry about the great adaptation of religion ot the hear and life of woman. That there are noble exceptions I grant, but among the masses they are few.
You men who are so supremely particular about your food, your clothes, and, in fact, everything, – who want your wives and children always to be apple-pie order, and think they can keep so, no matter what engaged in, how do you suppose you would manage to gratify your exquisite taste, without the aid of some one or more of those depenant beings called women? Don’t you believe there would be some muddy coffee, – some burnt cakes, – some ragged garments, and some tumbled linen? It really distresses me to think of it. But, after all, what’s the use of talking or writign? To be sure it frees my mind a little, but that is not much consolation, when the conviction is constantly forcing itself upon me that,
“A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still.”
Gainesville, N.Y., 1861. Maude Elliott

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Woman – Incentives to Duty

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

March 30, 1861

Woman – Incentives to Duty

It is a well-proved fact that woman is an inferior existence; – that she never ascends to the highest pinnacle of intelligence, and takes the blessings which Heaven offers? Is her soul so dead that she never longs to drink from the deep fountain of intellectuality, at which her brother man satiates his thirst for immortal good?

With one earnest glance of life, all these interrogations arise, and a solution, either correct or incorrect, followers. In studying these living marvels, we find it to be an invariable fact, that the of intelligence which illuminate the human mind, are convergent in the mind of man, and divergent in the mind of woman. Man concentrated every ray of truth upon a specific object until he can clearly see to perfectly accomplish that object. He perfects the thought that interests him most, and thereby makes proficiency in something. Woman’s thoughts are seldom, if ever, brought to a focus; consequently there is not the requisite light in her mind to enable her to penetrate any intricate subject, and, therefore, she makes proficiency in nothing. The fault is not that Nature did not make an equal distribution of gifts, but that woman, by will and circumstance, has become almost incapable of excelling in anything useful. It is true that some, comparatively very few, have excelled in literature, science, and aft, but these few have scrupulously obeyed the aspirations of the soul, and listened to the whisperings of genius as to the commands of a divinely commissioned teacher.

Another cause of the mental inferiority of woman is, that she allows herself to be attracted by every passing vanity, and instead of consulting the garden of the mind, she neglects it altogether, and spends the golded moments “in stooping the pinion back to earth, which beareth up to heaven.”

It is the climax of folly for women to complain of oppression, until she better improves the privileges that she now possesses. When the era shall arrive in which woman will walk just as far as permitted in the field of truth, then we shall see the gates opening into other, and more extended, avenues, that she may go on and on, until she reaches the fountain of perfect justice. Worthiness will secure for her the longed-for equality! It is but seldom we find a woman who possesses genuine nobility of soul, – that sterling principle which causes her to be a purifying element in society, – and it is because she has so long stooped to the conformity of foolish and fashionable customs, that she is mentally deformed; and while she is being “delightfully entertained” in the gossiping circle, man is pursuing something useful, and increasing, therefore, the disparity of mind, and also position!

Impatience is another cause of woman ever being with the substrata of society. If, perchance, a glorious thought springs up in her mind, she cannot wait for its maturity, but, in her eagerness, she gives it to the world only half grown. She evidently cannot learn that a thought needs time, as well as a nutriment, to complete its beauty and usefulness.

Man is not the oppose of the elevation of woman that is frequently supposed. How often have we heard good old orthodox people say that, “we can have the religion we live for.” Thus it is with woman, she can have all the rights for which she will live.

Amie W. Livonia, N.Y., 1861

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Aunt Betsy on Woman’s Rights

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker
March 23rd, 1861
Aunt Betsy on Woman’s Rights
We had been talking of “Woman’s Rights,” one winter evening in Aunt Betsy’s room- talking girl fashion, but none the less ‘decidedly’ or enthusiastically, from the fact that it was a subject we knew little but fancied much about.
At last Alice said, looking around to where she sat, – her specs pushed up, and her eyes fixed rather quizzically on us, – “What do you think about ‘Women’s Rights,’ Aunt Betsy?”
“Well, girls,” she said, after a moment’s pause, “I can tell you just what I think, and I’ve a sort of an idea that it won’t do you any hurt either, seeing that I’ve seen more of the world than you have.”
“Why, Aunt,” broke in Alice, “you’ve never been out of Saddlersville in your life, and we’ve been to the Falls, and the Springs, and ever so many other places.”
“That may all be, child; but talking about “Woman’s Rights, – her rights are in her world, aint they? And her home is her world, isn’t it? I think, may be, my dear, that I know full as much about the falls and springs of that sort of world as any body, – falls and springs of feeling, and love, and temper, too.”
It was quite a sentimental speech for the old lady and she sat thinking for a moment, till we began to fidget in our chairs.
“I suppose you all think,” she began at last “that when you’re once launched on the “Sea of Matrimony,” as some of them big writers tell about, you’ll ‘become possessed of your own inalienable and individual rights,’ and so on, but, girls, there’s a heap of knowledge, that isn’t to be found in your boardin’-schools and ‘cademys, got to be drilled into your innocent heads yet.
“When you get married, and leave your mother, and sisters, and aunts, to go tagging after a man, that you never see in his own home, – whose shirt-bosoms and sock-heels you never even thought of, – you’re just jumpin’ off a precipice with your eyes blinded, and the land you pitch your tent in, after you’ve jumped, will have to have a blessed lot of sunshine to keep your mind off the little briars and sticks that catch hold of your dresses and tear your ankles.
“It’ll be all butter and honey at first, to be sure, till just then, your weddin’-tour will be over, and the next thing will be to get to house-keeping. You, who never scratched your finger without crying, will tug up and down stairs, and scrub, and wash and sweep, to get things in order, and maybe you’ll think about them that it’s one of your ‘inalienable rights’ to have a little help; but pretty soon in he’ll come- out of the air and sunshine, wide-awake as can be – and laugh at you about the hooks burst off the back of your dress, looking round at the things approvingly, and finally throwing himself into the rocking-chair, and with the remark that he ‘thinks he’ll have a clean shirt!’
“’Where is it, my-dear!’ says he, and you’ll take your hands out of your dish-water, as meekly as though you hadn’t an individual right in the world, – go a trudgin’ off up-stairs, or somewhere, after it, shut the drawers ruefully on a dozen that need patching, and hunt half an hour for a needle to sew on a button-with.
“That’s the beginning of your rights, and though you may get what folks call ‘one of the best men that ever was,’ and you ‘love him like a pisen,’ as some one says, there’ll be a dozen times every day that he’ll tread one of your mights under his heel, and another under his toe; and you’ll look the other way, – like enough grease the boots he does it with.
“Just you take my advice, girls, and don’t say any more about your rights, for you’ll
be pretty likely to ‘haul on your colors,’ when the time comes, and woman’s fate with it.
“I’m sure I don’t know whether we’re born so or now, but sensible women, that have got to be as old as I am, are pretty apt to think it’s better to put up with a few less rights for the sake of a little more peace.”
E.C.L.K. Charlotte Center, N.Y., 1861

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Vulgarity is often clothed in a silken garb

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

February 2nd 1861

Over-Dressing, Again

It is well that the Rural has opened its pages to discussion upon this subject, for extravagance in dress has become the national sin of American women, and notwithstanding Linda’s spirited defense, they are without excuse.

The fact that husbands are often bought by an expensive toilet, is the very reason that over-dressing should be avoided, for what true women would wish to marry a man who wedded only for wealth. However, that class is small which, in seeking a bride, places of wealth before personal attractions, and when introductions are solicited to “that little butterfly of a coquette, made radiantly beautiful by silks and laces,” in nine cases out of ten it is something in the look, word, manner, or in the taste displayed that is the chief feature of attraction; and, generally speaking, an elaborate and showy wardrobe does little to assist in gaining admiration. On the contrary, (if we dress to please the gentlemen,) they must often be displeased, if not disgusted at the low standard by which we judge their taste in our extravagant attire. I am sure they would be better pleased, if the fair ones used a little more common sense, becoming women of America in the nineteenth century.

Linda says that “personal beauty is rarely appreciated, except it be assisted with the elegance of dress.” In good society at present, personal beauty in simple but tasteful array in appreciated more highly than plainer features associated with rich apparel. But few things have a great bearing upon our success in society than dress, which depends not so much upon its elegance, as its grace and fitness. Expensive attire may usually be dispense with, but taste and neatness can never be omitted. I know a beautiful lassie who was woed and won in a corn-colored print, and whose suitor was highly educated and refined, moving in the first circles in our great metropolis. Her beauty was none the less appreciated because of her simple dress. Vulgarity is often clothed in a silken garb, but refinement cannot be mistaken in tasteful though unassuming garments.

“And often the chief attraction of the handsome face is dependent on some peculiarity of style, or shade of color in dress, which is made the subject of study by those who know the secret of their power in society.” It is the duty and privilege of woman to make her dress a subject of study, and adopt that which is most becoming. Every delineation of form and feature should be taken into consideration, and from among the great variety of styles in fashion, that one selected which will enable her to appear to the best advantage. Expensive and superfluous dress is not necessary to produce a pleasing effect. It is good judgement and skill in every department of the toilet, however minute. If I were to appear an evening in company with a view to charm an ideal admirer, I should certainly choose the dress which would give the best effect, though it were of plain material, rather than the most elegant, if it were deficient in any particular. Let the clothing be fashionable and faultless, but it need not be superfluous to be admired.

Certainly, American gentlemen do not prefer the stolid English, the phlegmatic German, or the plain features of the French, to our fair and spirited women, with all their sin of dress; but if the dear little wife who presides in the sweet vine-wreathed the sober colors of the English, would study more perfectly the true science and art of dress, in which the French excel, she could, with less inconvenience, be arrayed becomingly in the style her husband most dearly loves to see, which is oftener the tidy print, or the robe of plain material. Is it not, gentlemen? As we like to please the fastidious of the other sex, let us hear their views upon this important subject.

Jane E. Higby. Piffard, N.Y., Jan., 1861

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Hired Girl – Looking for Previous Article

If anyone happens to know where I can find the 1860 Moore’s Rural, please let me know. I want to find the article previous to this one:

Hired Girl 61

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Over-Dressing (From the Rural)

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker
January 5th, 1861
“The over-dressing of American ladies in the streets, at hotels, and in the churches, is a subject remark among travelers from abroad, as well as sensible people at home.” Rural New Yorker
There is a foreign savor about your discourse, Mr. Celebs. The true sons of “Uncle Sam” do not sit in judgment against the wives and daughters of their own country. Hav’nt [sic] you been taking a jaunt in the Queen’s dominions, and been accustomed to the sight of those somber-colored satin dresses that last from one generation to another, and from thence drawn your conclusions? Doubtless you have encased yourself in an armor of impenetrable reserve while the “conflict of” charms is viewed afar off, and while good care is taken that your position is beyond the reach of “Cupid’s darts.” Who are the sensible people you speak or? Are there any who do not make obeisance to keeping up appearances , especially in dress? A few prodigies of excellence and economy may exist; but the torch of Diogenes would evidently be required to find them. Suppose the American Ladies are somewhat in advance of those on the other side of the “big pond,” is there any rule by which they can be judged? Is there any judging in matters of dress? Surely nothing is more capricious than taste.
But if fault exists in matters of dress, where does it originate? For what purpose do they array their dear little selves in the most becoming style? Is it for their own gratification alone? On whom do gentlemen lavish their unceasing attention at “the Springs,” at Newport, at the ball, and, if you please, at the little private party in your own circle? To whom do gentlemen solicit introductions? Is it the plainly-dressed, unpretentious young lady? Or is it that little butterfly of a coquette, made radiantly beautiful by silks and laces? If I am not mistaken, men seldom value a jewel unless it be handsomely set. Dress, or over-dress, has a semblance of wealth, and husbands are not unfrequently bought with the lustre of money alone, and the conclusion of the matter sometimes is, that they find themselves beautifully “sold.”
Personal beauty is worshiped next to mammon, but is rarely appreciated except it be assisted with elegance of dress, and often the chief attraction of the handsome face is dependent on some peculiarity of style, or shade of color in dress, which is made the subject of study by those who know the secret of their power in society. Indeed, the great wonder is that so much attention is paid to mental culture and general intelligence. Goodness and intelligence must receive the homage that is due for their sakes alone, before a reform in dress can be expected. Newspaperdom is not the path to this field of reform. Honestly, Mr. Celebs, does not an American woman possess more attractions for a better-half with her great fault of over-dressing, or, rather, her fault of trying to please, than any of those English ladies who possess such a keen relish for roast beef and porter? Would you like to be taken captive by any of those German beauties whose liking for lager bear is equal to that exhibited by Artemas Ward’s musician – or would you prefer a French lass to serve up frogs in your dish of fricassee, and keep you spending half your life at a “café?” – instead of a neat little American home, where the vine and shrubbery grow undisturbed, and where the sunshine can play hide and seek, and the dear wife, arrayed in the becoming dress you so dearly love to see, is ever ready to welcome you. Linda Bennett. Hammondsport, N.Y., 1860
We wonder if Linda is not indulging in a sly hit at the occupants of the Rural sanctum, – administering her castigation over the shoulders of the devoted “Celebe?” At all events, she comes to the defense of American ladies with true spirit and courage, – genuine feminine grit, – and while we must, with the most profound respect, acknowledge the ardor displayed, we beg leave to enter our protest at being thus summarily read out of either the Union Federal, or Union Matrimonial, For the first, – and we include that naughty little sister, Miss S. Carolina, – we cherish a devotion that will last while pulse beats or heart throbs, and latter, bless your dear heart, Linda, we love with all our powers of body and soul. We speak knowingly, too; for instead of “keeping beyond the reach of Cupid’s arrows,” one of the aforesaid weapons touched us delicious years agone, as those who compose “our own circle” at home, – the little ones who clamber upon our knees and dally with locks where the frosts of winter are somewhat thickly sown, – could testify. In Linda’s remarks relative to the male race, there is unfortunately, too much of truth; we think, however, that the cause of this moral delinquency is not rightly judged. As to the question of dress, and the modes of styles thereof, we do not consider ourselves competent critics, and will take the advice of witty writer she mentions: – “Never don’t do nothin’ which it isn’t your Fort.” Our correspondent has broached the subject, – the ladies have the matter in charge, – and we will be glad to have them discuss its influence upon their sex, in a philosophical and hygienic point of view, through the columns of the Rural.


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