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October 19, 2021 37 mins

Annie Chapman and her husband were making good on their ambitions to live a comfortable, respectable life. Only... Annie drank. Under pressure from her husband’s employer, Annie was sent away - and she fell deeper and deeper into the bottle. This addiction - and society's disgust with women who drank - also pushed Annie closer and closer to her killer.  

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:15):
Pushkin. This episode discusses death by suicide. If you're suffering
emotional distress or having suicidal thoughts. Support is available, for example,
from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Annie Chapman watches her

husband John get ready for work. Watches him down the
tall hat and shining boots. He wears to drive his
master's grand carriage. He has a cold and the weather
is miserable. He's reluctant to leave the little cottage he
shares with Annie and their two children. He takes a
nip of hot whiskey to fortify himself and then kisses

Annie goodbye. That kiss is Annie Chapman's undoing. It sets
in motion a sequence of events that ends in her
vicious murder on the streets of Whitechapel. I'm Hallie, Rubin
hold you're listening to Bad Women. The Ripper retold, a

series about the real lives of the women killed by
Jack the Ripper and how we got their stories so wrong.
One side, money plenty and friends too by the score.
Then fortune smilder upon me, No one pass my almy,

and not we sees to lie. Annie Eliza Smith was

born in September eighteen forty one, the one which day
we don't know. She was illegitimate, and so perhaps her
mother Ruth, attempted to hide the facts of her birth.
Once Ruth's pregnancy became known, she likely lost her position
as a servant. After all, no employer could keep such
a woman. She was now dependent on the baby's father,

George Smith, for meager and irregular handouts. George was a
trooper in the Lifeguards, one of the most prestigious cavalry
regiments in the land. They were bodyguards to the royal
household and were never far from Queen Victoria herself. Still,
his wages were poor. The Army encouraged its soldiers to

pursue monogamous relationships with good working class girls, but oddly
it discouraged actual marriage, permitting only six and every hundred
men to wed. The army therefore consigned a raft of
women to the status of dollymop, a soldier's girl who
could never hope to be a soldier's wife. Annie's mother

was now in a most precarious position. If George were
transferred abroad, she would be left with no money, children
to support, and a sullied reputation. Fortunately, even miraculously George
received permission to marry Ruth. Their nuptials were even helpfully
backdated in the military records should anyone inquire, They were

wed before the birth of their first child. At first,
the young family lived in the army barracks, but this
was neither healthy nor pleasant for them. Annie spent the
first part of her childhood living in a corner of
a communal room that was screened off with hanging sheets
and blankets. Women here were afforded little dignity. She was

as common as a barber's chair, in which how parish
seek to be trained. Regimental wives dressed and undressed, lay
in bed, washed, gave birth and breastfed, surrounded by single
men who strode about half naked, swearing, jeering, and singing
glued songs. Sanitation was not much better. Many barracks dormitories

were damp, poorly lit, and unhygienic. In some large barrels
were used as communal chamber plots. These were then emptied
and reused for bathing. Over the years, Annie was joined
by five more siblings. The Smith children were able to
make use of the regimental school, a luxury for working

class children. The cost of being a trooper was a
life full of disruption. Regiments were rotated between barracks, often
at short notice. The Smith family lived at no fewer
than twelve addresses in London and in the town of Windsor,
in the shadow of the royal family's residence, a huge
castle just west of the city. In each of these

dozen homes, Annie snatched glimpses of another world. She witnessed
from afar, an existence of status, privilege, and extraordinary wealth.
The sight of carriages filled with ladies in expensive silk
bonnets and titled gentlemen, their uniforms clanking with medals were
an ordinary occurrence. Occasionally she might even have caught a

glimpse of Queen Victoria or a royal prince trotting by
an horseback. Though she orbited the outermost edges of this world,
any actual privilege was tempered by the meagerness of her
father's salary. Annie's daily realities were that of a working
class child in London. The Smith's living quarters were dismal

on down at Hill Raphael Street. They lived in a
cramped house that had been carved up and portioned out
to accommodate two other families. A child down the street
the palm. The child got sick first. He was not
quite eighteen months old when scarlet fever claimed his life.
Easily treated today, this bacterial infection was deadly to young Victorians.

The disease crept through the poorous plaster walls and crowded
rooms of Raphael Street and soon came to settle in
the Smith family home. Miriam Smith sickened first. The two
year olds giggling and prattling gave way to fever and crying,
and then silence. The baby, William succumbed next. Scarlet fever

then claimed the life of Ely, just five years old.
And then a new epidemic arrived, Typhus bread among young
and old without distinction. It was transmitted through the bites
of the fleas and light that infested the clothes, blankets,
and bedding shared by people living in close quarters. What

George and Root thought when their eldest son began to
sicken cannot even be imagined. The Smiths summoned a doctor
whose fees they could not afford, and the boy was
diagnosed with typhus and died. In the span of just
three weeks. Disease had carried away four of the six children.

This calamity cast deep shadows over the lives of the
remaining Smiths. The death of children was an unavoidable aspect
of Victorian working class life, but this did not render
the experience any easier. Somehow, though, the family managed to
move forward. Annie grew into an adult with wavy, dark

brown hair and an intense blue eyed gaze. In eighteen
sixty one, she gained a position as a housemaid for
a successful architect in the affluent London district of Westminster,
the political heart of the vast British Empire. This was
grueling labor. She cleaned, dishes, made the beds, hauled buckets

of coal up flights of stairs, lit fires, dusted, scrubbed,
drew water for baths, polished boots, mended clothing for her
owls are toiling. Annie was poorly paid, and as a
living domestic, she was also isolated. She had few opportunities
to see her family. Meanwhile, George Smith's fortunes took a turn.

He became a valet to one of his officers. In
this role, he maintained the clothes that Captain Thomas nayler leyland.
The position placed him in the top rank of the
servant hierarchy alongside the butler and the cook. Much like Annie,
working in domestic service meant that George saw little of
his emily. This estrangement from his wife and children, as

well as all that he had known in the cavalry,
began to bear down on him. For roughly twenty one years,
the army had beaten out the march to which the
Smith family moved. The regiment had formed a unique, closed
clan like community. But now that George was a valet,
he was adrift. He also had more time to himself

than ever when not tending to his master. He could
read and think without the immediate distractions of his family
or other soldiers. And there were surely many subjects he
did not wish to ponder. Undoubtedly the deaths of his
four children were among them. He started drinking. In June

eighteen sixty three, matters came to a head. Leyland was
attending the cavalry races in Wales, and George was accompanying him.
George was said to be quite cheerful when he retired
to his room at their lodgings. The next morning. When
George did not appear at breakfast, the landlady of the inn,

went upstairs and knocked on his door. He did not answer.
She pushed it open and found George's body on the floor,
covered in blood. Following the discovery of George Smith's body,
an official investigation into his death was swiftly launched, swift

so as not to interrupt the horse races George's master
had come to enjoy. The inquiry found that Annie's father
had cut his own throat while laboring under temporary insanity.
Drink was also thought to be a contributing factor. Captain
Leyland paid the funeral expenses and headed back to the
race track overnight. The Smith family lost George's income. His

army pension also expired with his death, and yet the
situation did not end in ruin for Ruther her children.
Perhaps Captain Dayland made a donation to Ruth because by
the following year she had taken the lease on an
adequately sized home in a nice part of London and
was letting out rooms to lodgers. One day, a coach

driver named John Chapman arrived at the door and inquired
about lodgings. Perhaps Annie met John in the kitchen of
her mother's home and something blossomed between them. When John
proposed to Annie, it was her great moment, a chance
to make a success of her own life, to become
all that society had intended for her, a wife and

a mother who just hold still now. Like many Victorian newlyweds,
the Chapman's arranged to have a photograph taken dressed in
their Sunday best. In the photograph, John leans with casual
authority against a wood and plaster plymph. Annie wears a
checkered gown. Her dark hair is fashionably braided, and her

large blue eyes staring intently at the camera. Both wear
stern expressions. The Chapmans had two daughters who were photographed too,
clad in tart and dresses and striped stockings, their hair
and ribbons. John and Annie's desire to own such an
expensive photograph speaks to their hopes for a more prosperous life.

Annie had done well to marry a gentleman's coachman, and
his salary enabled the couple to set aside money that,
in turn fan the flames of their aspirations. Annie likely
enjoyed certain middle class pleasures and privileges. Daily walks passed
the twinkling gas lit shop windows with their colorful displays
of the latest hats, shoes and jewelry. She strolled busy

London thoroughfares that rattled with the carriages of statesmen and
society beauties. She may even have bought herself an occasional trinket.
John now accepted a position as the coachman to Francis Tressberry,
a gentleman of considerable wealth with a grand country estate

called Saint Leonard's Hill. The Chapman's could not have hoped
for a more promising opportunity, aspiration was not limited to
those on the cusp of the middle class industrialist. Berry
had made his fortune in mining, and now he sought
society's recognition too. His move to Saint Leonard's Hill, which
was adjacent to the royal residence of Windsor Castle, was

an obvious strategy to place himself under the Queen's nose.
Chapman had been hired not only to drive Berry's coach,
but also to supervise the running of his stable block,
which was home to no fewer than thirty horses. The
position came with a house, too. Annie had been accustomed
to cramped dwellings the Coachman's three bedroomed cottage was a

home of an entirely different scale. Annie even hired a
day servant to help with some of the more laborious
homemaking tasks. The Chapman's elder daughter was placed in a
high respectable school for young ladies. They had officially entered
the middle class. When the census was recorded in spring

eighteen eighty one, Annie was visiting her mother in London.
John was still at Saint Leonard's Hill, and he listed
his profession as coachman or domestic servant. Annie Chapman, on
the other hand, described herself as the wife of a
stud groom, a significant step up from coachman. Possibly John's

responsibilities now included the purchase of breeding and racing stock
for Barry, but Annie's grand self identification also speaks volumes.
The landed gentry venerated the stud groom who had his
master's ear in respect, and with this might breach the
class divide. At the same time, Barry was making leaps

and bounds in his own social assent. In eighteen eighty
one he entertained a royal party dukes, earls and the
Prince of Wales, the future King descended on Saint Leonard's Hill.
Annie would have watched this magnificent spectacle unfold, the ladies
in their frilled, feathered bonnets and veils, the rotund Prince

of Wales beneath his hat and triangular beard. Barry was
firmly in the Prince's circle now, and the sounds of merrymaking,
music and laughter would have blown down from the grand
house to the Chapman's little home. Were Annie's children slumbered
in their own bedrooms. This might have been Annie's story

in its entirety. It might have ended in quiet, middle
class comfort on a gentleman's estate. Her daughters may have
grown up and married middle class men. Constancy and contentment
might have defined the courses of all of their lives.
Had Annie Chapman not been an alcoholic, the ripper be

told we'll be back in just a moment, Just like today,
Alcoholism addiction is universalizing, right. It's not just lower class people.
It wasn't just the poor. It isn't just the poor
and the working class now, people of all classes suffer

from addiction. Julia Skelly teaches art history at McGill University
in Montreal and studies addiction in Victorian culture. I came
to the topic as a recovering alcoholic. I got sober
in two thousand and six, when I was twenty three,
just before I started my PhD. We can't say for sure,
but it's likely that Annie's discovery of the pacifying effects

of the bottle began with the devastating loss of her
siblings to scarlet fever and typhus, and her placement in
domestic service shortly afterwards. For a time, Annie was successful
in hiding her alcoholism within the confines of her own home,
but she couldn't hide it from her family. Again and again,
they tried to persuade Annie to give up drinking. Again

and again, she returned to alcohol. In Annie Chapman's day,
alcohol was almost impossible to avoid a household like Annie's
stopped wines and spirits as a treatment for headaches, colds, fevers, toothaches,
or to rub on the gums of teething children. Most
shot bought curatives were principally based in alcohol, and medicines

also tended to contain addictive substances like laudanum, a solution
of opium, or even cocaine. Their frequent usage ended in dependency.
One of the challenges of recovering from addiction at this
time was, of course, the mixed messages that in order
to cure alcoholism you could take a little cocaine, or

to cure addiction to cocaine, you could take a little
something else. One addictive substance was bad, another addictive substance
could help you with your other addiction. Often, the tendency
for Victorian wives to drink was precipitated by a sense
of loneliness. This was the paradox of upwards social mobility.

With the children away at school and a maid to
do the housework, Annie spent a lot of time alone
at home unoccupied. She was also far from her mother
and sisters, which only increased her isolation and boredom, and
in turn her itch to self medicate with alcohol. In
the nineteenth century, various physicians began to argue that addiction

alcoholism was a disease, and one of the reasons physicians
were attempting to do that was too empty addiction of
the shame associated with sin and moral failing. At the
same time, though alcoholism and drunkenness was being criminalized, despite
attempts to categorize it as a disease. In the eighteen

seventies and eighties, addiction had sinister implications. Drunkenness was seen
as a reflection of a person's degenerate character, their poor judgment,
their moral weakness, their idleness. Women were held in particular
contempt for their alcoholism. This is apparent and how they
were depicted in the era's artwork. Audiences at the time

would have recognized all these tropes, the haggard physiognomy, the
messy hair, the dirty skin as indicators that this is
a female subject addicted to alcohol. This idea that a
woman who is an alcoholic or addict is so out
of it is so unfeminine that she doesn't even wash

her face, that she doesn't even do her hair. She's unnatural.
Female alcoholics, female drinkers, female addicts have long been, if
not have always been perceived as a much greater threat
than male addicts and alcoholics because of those gender discourses
around what is expected of a good woman, and that

is of course being obedient, being quiet, being well behaved,
and being a good wife and mother. Annie would have
experienced devastating shame as a woman deemed unnatural. That story
was so sad reading about Anny Chapman, because that life
trajectory still happens, right. A woman who wants to stop,

who has many reasons to stop, and who cannot stop
and stay stopped in terms of alcohol consumption, experiences shame
that isolates her. And then there's that affective emotional suffering
on top of the suffering induced by alcoholism. Mister and
missus Chapman faced other tragedies. Two. Annie gave birth to

eight children. According to Annie's sister, six of these were
victims to the curse of alcohol. Annie's eldest daughter initially
appeared healthy, but by the time she was eight she
was suffering from epileptic teasures. A second daughter lived no
more than a day, was born with what is now

known as fetal alcohol syndrome. Its hallmarks are apparent in
that childhood photograph. Two other children died young. The Chapman's
last child, John Alfred, suffered from paralysis. It was obvious
to Annie's family, and perhaps also to Annie, that her
drinking was at the heart of this series of tragedies.

This realization surely pushed Annie deeper into despair and furthered
her inability to control her impulses. For their part, Annie's
sisters repeatedly tried to get her to embrace teetotalism. They
were proponents of the temperance movement. So the temperance movement
began around eighteen thirty, so it's already sixty odd years

old when Jack the Ripper was killing women again, very
much a religious model right where in temperance was a sin,
was a moral failing. So one had to sign a
temper prince pledge or an abstinence pledge saying I will
not drink. Annie's sisters convinced her several times to sign

this pledge, but they could not get her to adhere
to it. There was this expectation that once you signed
the pledge, that should be enough, that should be enough
to keep you from drinking again. And as we saw
with Eddie Chapman, that is not the case. Alcoholism addiction
does not just go away if you sign a piece
of paper. If only it were so simple. In some ways,

the movement just served to exacerbate the humiliation of alcoholics.
It went hand in hand with the popular philosophy of
self help, which blame poverty on an individual's own behavior
and lack of responsibility for their choices in life. A
solemn promised to adhere to restriction of one's impulses was
supposed to equate to conscious effort at moral improvement. The

temperance movement did kind of function along the lines of
shaming alcoholics and addicts, and again, this idea of what
a woman should be doing right morally upright duly bound
women attending to gendered expectations. It got worse when Annie's

elder daughter, Emily, began to sicken with meningitis. She turned
to her usual source of comfort, the bottle, and she
was not present at her daughter's bedside when she died.
Annie's pain at this time was surely unbearable. By this point,
she also had a reputation among the local police. Several

times she was found drunk wandering between the surrounding villages.
By all accounts, she was not an angry drunk, but
rather sad, sullen and quiet, weighed down by her heartache.
We don't know where Annie was eventually found when Emily died,
whether she was ensconced in a pub or perhaps swaying

down the street, but her behavior was enough to raise
serious alarm. Her family gained her admission to spell Town Sanatorium,
an alcoholism treatment facility for middle class women. Those sanatoria
were very much designed as homes, so they were decorated
as domestic spaces, and the idea was these women were

expected to do feminine activities to get fresh air, exercise,
to embroider. That was the treatment developed for women of
this class, with the idea that they would return to
again this kind of natural femininity. There wasn't kind of
a dealing with the actual problem of addiction or indeed

what may have been causing the consumption of alcohol. Chapman
clearly suffered trauma. Right now a day's there's much more
attention to the root problem, whereas in the nineteenth century,
middle of upper class women who were identified as alcoholics
just needed to be reminded of their duties. Annie spent
a year at Spelthorne. Her name is not recorded in

the log books. Among the occasional troublemakers, the women who
found giving up alcohol nearly impossible, who tore up their clothing,
destroyed furniture, or lashed out in violence, it seemed that
Annie's time at the sanatorium was relatively quiet. She was
released in December eighteen eighty three and able to return home.
According to Annie's sister, she was at this point a

changed woman, a sober wife and mother. Life rolled along
for a few months, but what happened next sounds almost apocryphal,
like a cautionary tale from a teetotalless handbook. One bit
a day, Annie's husband, John, who was stricken with a cold,
was getting ready for work. Duty compelled him to go out,

so he took a fortifying glass of hot whiskey. When
he kissed Annie goodbye, his lips carried the taste of
the alcohol, and all her cravings returned. Perhaps she turned
over every room in the house looking for that bottle.
In the end, she went out within an hour. She

was drunk. Later, in words, redolent with the profound suffering
of the chronic alcoholic, she told her sister, it is
of no use. No one knows the fearful struggle. Unless
I can keep out of sight and smell, I could
never be free. Spelthorne had been intended to cure Annie,

and this was the last straw John's employer could indulge.
Missus Chapman no longer. The berries now moved in the
highest circles, and they could not afford the embarrassment of
harboring a notorious and unpredictable inebriate on their grounds. Either
Annie had to leave or John would be fired, and

it was unlikely that he would find another job nearly
as well paid. When John and Annie decided to part ways,
the decision was apparently an amicable one, though not without heartbreak. John,
who was devoted to his wife, made arrangements to pay
her ten shillings a week, a sum higher than a

female factory worker might expect. He almost certainly intended for
her to return to her mother's home. That sum would
not only assist Annie's mother with the upkeep of the house,
it would afford his wife a few of the middle
class luxuries to which she was accustomed perfumed soaps and
inexpensive jewelry. Perhaps John believed that with the support of

her mother and her devoted sisters, Annie might just be
all right. But John's well intentioned scheme did not last long.
The ripper retold were returned shortly. It was almost impossible

for Annie to live in her mother's home. Her family
didn't tolerate her drinking, and her shame made a relationship
with them almost impossible to bear. Ultimately, Annie chose a
life without those she loved rather than one without the
substance she craved. Shame is an incredibly powerful affect right.

It controls people, It isolates people, It is incredibly destructive
as an emotion, and it is contagious. It wouldn't have
just been Annie Chapman who felt ashamed of her alcoholism.
Her sisters, her mother felt ashamed by proxy, because the
society culture told all of them that they should be

ashamed of Annie, that Annie should be ashamed of herself.
The shame discourse, which is absolutely still circulating today around addiction,
keeps people from saying to someone I struggle with addiction
and I need help. For historian Julia Skelly, this stigma
sealed Annie's fate. In isolating her, it all but delivered

her into the hands of the ripper. If the shaming
discourse had not existed at the time, she would have
been able to stay with her husband, right. She wouldn't
have been told you have to leave. The employers found
her offensive, and so she was exiled right and thus
became incredibly, incredibly vulnerable to violence. It's difficult to fathom

the emotional despair that Annie must now have felt she
had proven her inability to mother her children, to maintain
a home for her husband, even to care for herself.
Eventually Annie left her mother's home. She was now a
lone woman, a precarious position that demanded that she find
a male partner. Because she was still legally married to John.

This meant adultery, but it hardly mattered. She was already
considered to be morally ruined. Annie probably met Jack Siveey
in a pub, his name reflecting his occupation as a
sid maker. They became a pair, bonding over their shared
love of drink, and moved to Whitechapel together in search

of work. All that remained of Annie's former identity, the
wife of a gentleman's coachman, the mother of two children,
was left behind in Whitechapel. She was only ever known
as Annie Sivvey, Missus Sivee, or occasionally Dark Annie. On
account of her wavy brown hair now streaked with gray,

she spoke little of her past. Mister and Missus Sivee
found lodgings at number thirty Dorset Street, where Amelia Palmer
and her husband also lived. Amelia remarked that in spite
of her circumstances. Annie remained a very spectable woman. She
was straightforward, clever and industrious when she was sober. When

she could, she sold her embroidery and crochet work at
a local market. She never used bad language. Jack Sivie
brought in an income, and failing that, Annie had her
allowance from John to fall back on. This might have
paid for a better room elsewhere, as well as for
food and coal. Instead, it paid for alcohol, at least

until December eighteen eighty six. That month, without warning, Annie's
weekly payments stopped. She was alarmed. John, she soon learned,
was gravely unwell. This news shook Annie and she was
determined to see her husband again. In the midst of winter,
she set off on a thirty mile journey on foot,

trekking across London and into the frozen countryside. She didn't
know John's precise new address, and so she called in
at a pub, the Mary Wives of Windsor. The manager
later described her as a wretched looking woman, having the
appearance of a tramp. But he knew where John lived
and he pointed Annie in the right direction. Their reunion

was surely a bitter one. Annie's addiction and the collapse
of their marriage had felled John completely shortly before his
death at just forty five. He was white haired and brokenhearted.
He seems to have taken to drinking two. Annie did
not linger long enough to witness John's death. Upon her

return to Whitechapel, Annie said Amelia was never the same again.
Jack Sivey soon left her. She was also increasing the
unwell and becoming a pitiful case. Her life was marked
by drink and despondency, by hunger and sickness, and she

appeared to be suffering from tuberculosis, which eventually began to
ravage her brain tissue. Annie's mother and siblings gave her
small amounts of money. She also began a relationship with
a new man who paid for her to spend a
few nights a week at a lodging house. She likely
spent the other nights sleeping on the street. On September seventh,

eighteen eighty eight, Amelia Palmer encountered Annie Lingering on Dorset
Street and asked if she would be selling her crochet
work at a local market that weekend. Annie answered, wearily,
I am too ill to do anything. She recognized the
gravity of her own situation, though and told Amelia that

she had to pull herself together and get some money
for a bed in a lodging house, But by nightfall
she was still short. At one forty five a m.
She pleaded with the deputy manager of her usual lodging
house for a bed. He declined to extend her any credit.
Annie was not quite willing to admit defeat. Keep my

bed for me A shan't be long. Perhaps this was
simply a show of pride. Ill and drunk, She lingered
in the lodging house doorway, considering her options. Before stepping
out into the night. She wove her way through the
black whitechapel streets and found that the gate to twenty
nine Hanbury Street was unlocked. She would have been familiar

with this yard and known that the gap between the
steps and the fence was an ideal spot in which
to curl up. She would have been relieved to find
it vacant. It offered solitude and some semblance of shelter.
Annie Chapman needn't have been on the street that night.

This is part of the tragedy of her story. She
might have stayed at her mother's house or rested in
her sister's care on the other side of London. She
might have lain in hospital receiving treatment for tuberculosis. She
might have even been comforted by the embrace of her children.
At every turn a hand had reached to pull her

from the abyss, but the counter tug of addiction had
been more forceful, and the isolating grip of shame just
as strong. It was this that had severed her ties
with her family and pulled her under. Annie Chapman, curled
up in that yard, had led a miserable and blighted life.

That life was about to be snuffed out. Bad Women,
The Ripper Were Told is brought to you by Pushkin

Industries and me Hallie Rubbinhold, and is based on my
book The Five. It was produced and co written by
Ryan Dilley and Alice Fines, with help from Pete Norton.
Pascal Wise Sound designed and mixed the show and composed
all the original music. You also heard the voice talents
of Soul Boyer, Melanie Gutridge, Gemma Saunders and rufus Wright.

The show also wouldn't have been possible without the work
of mil La Belle, Jacob Weisberg, Jen Guerra, Heather Fane,
Carlie Migliori, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morano, and Daniella Lacane were
special thanks to my agents Sarah Ballard and Ellie Karn
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