Remembering Ellen Harris

 - by whnadmin


The late Ellen Harris (1904-1967) was President of Zonta International from 1960-62. She hailed from the Zonta Club of Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) where she and a small dedicated group of Zontians achieved extraordinary things in the 1950s and 60s. Approximately five women formed the core of the local club and together they raised funds for a number of worthy institutions in the city that are still active to this day.

Mrs Harris’s contribution to the work of Zonta, both locally and internationally, was preceded by a long distinguished career. In the 1920s and 30s, Ellen Harris played an instrumental role in organizing the Children’s Theatre Group in Winnipeg, where she grew up.  As a radio broadcaster with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, she was the host of “Morning Visit” from 1944 to 1952.   Ellen Harris established herself as a public figure in Vancouver and throughout the province and participated in a number of other radio programs and broadcasts. She was also the President and driving force behind the BC Ballet Society. Dance was one of her passions.

Ellen Harris 1President Ellen Harris (right) with Mrs Vern Staaf

on a visit to Sweden in 1961  

In addition to her professional work, Mrs Harris raised a son – Richard Colebrook (Cole) Harris – and a daughter, Susan Lorraine Pond. Her children, now retired, remember their mother traveling the world during her Zonta International Presidency and have donated Zonta-related correspondence, photos and other memorabilia to the University of British Columbia (UBC) Special Collections Archives. Some of these photos, reproduced here, illustrate the early sixties as they were for middle-class women – ­­ hats, gloves, fur stoles and the occasional tiara!

The organization’s mission and work, however, was clearly consistent with Zonta’s mission which still remains to advance the status of women worldwide.   Mrs Harris dined with Heads of State and other dignitaries and, one on occasion, invited Eleanor Roosevelt to the opening ceremonies for UBC’s International House for which the Zonta Club of Vancouver, along with the Marpole Rotary Club, had raised most of the funds.

Ellen Harris 2

Left to Right – Katherine Jacobson, Incoming Governor Vivienne Worley, Outgoing Governor Beverly Augustine, Conference Chair Ellen Harris, Helen Jones, Chair of Transportation

Riding the “Zonta Hitching Post” shuttle at the District 12 convention in Lamarre (location and date unknown)

Though Ellen Harris’ work with Zonta was exciting and of significant benefit to the local and international community, her Presidency was also extremely demanding physically. She was not a robust woman and, according to her children, the toll of travel and other responsibilities contributed to her early death at the age of 63.

The Zonta Club of Vancouver invited Mrs. Harris’s daughter, Susan Pond, to speak at its 2003 annual general meeting where she recounted her mother’s work with the organization. While the Vancouver Zonta club closed a number of years ago, former members are proud to have had this distinguished woman serve as international president and are inspired to continue her work toward advancing the status of women worldwide.

Gisele Yasmeen (c) November 2014

Gisèle Yasmeen, Ph.D., is Senior Fellow, University of British Columbia – Institute of Asian Research and Former President, Zonta Club of Vancouver.



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Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War & Conflict – Part 3

 - by whnadmin


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict

Women’s History Network Annual Conference, 2014


The 2014 Women’s History Network Conference took place in September at the University of Worcester. The title and theme – ‘Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict’ – promoted stimulating exchanges, discussion and debate on a broad range of topics, most looking at women during the First World War from a British perspective. Some papers ranged further afield.

Abstracts of papes presented by Jody Crutchley and Karen Hunt at the Conference illustrate this well. These are the third group of abstracts related to Britain and the First World War to be published on the blog. As well as raising questions and a stimulus to Conference sessions, their publication here provides an opportunty for readers to engage. Comments and discussion on the issues are invited from readers.

Robin R. Joyce (c) November 2014


“Responsibility, Duty, Sympathy and Self-Sacrifice”:

Empire and Elementary School Curricula on the Home-Front, 1914-1918

From 1870 elementary school attendance had begun to be compulsory for all British children between the ages of five and ten. This mushrooming working-class school population necessitated a new, focused approach from government, educationalists and pressure groups towards mass elementary curricula. A need arose to prepare pupils for their role as future working-class citizens of the Empire, to which the Board of Education responded with prescriptive curricula differentiated by both age and gender. By the outbreak of the Great War, however, the content and pedagogy of these curricula were often contested by both professional and political groups; especially as the perceived needs of Britain and the Empire changed in the face of new imperial and colonial challenges. Patriotic organisations increasingly regarded the schools as a ‘front’ in the years leading up to and during the Great War through which to promote their own interests and utilised the elementary curricula as a site for their wartime propaganda.

Jody Crutchley, University of Worcester © September 2014

Jody Crutchley is a PhD student at the University of Worcester, Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts. She studying Britain’s Experience of Empire, 1870-1939, her doctoral research addressing the role of the British Empire in development of the British school system and British curricula. Her thesis will contribute to current scholarship and debate that has tended to challenge and extend traditional views of Britons’ experience of empire. Locating educational development within an imperial trajectory will necessitate application of an inter-disciplinary approach. She therefore draws heavily on concepts and techniques utilised within the field of the History of Education: this means utilising a wide range of more unusual historical sources, such as school textbooks, as well as unpublished archival material within her research. Her twitter account is @jodycrutchley.


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Gendering the Local Home Front (1914 – 1919)

Histories of life in wartime tend to focus on the extraordinary and the unusual; the remembered; and what was new or different. This applies to all modern war but especially to what many see as the first truly ‘modern’ war, the Great War. However, if we change our focus to the everyday, the banal and often forgotten details of daily life, we may find that continuities are as important as changes. This is particularly the case when considering the home front. Everyday life had to go on, despite the challenges, privations and sorrows of this new kind of ‘total’ war. Yet it is clear that whichever combatant nation one looks at, there was a diversity of experience on the home front dependent on place – hence local home fronts – but also on class, on age, and particularly on gender. And that these experiences varied over time.

To understand how place (the city, the suburb, the town, the village) shaped everyday experience on the home front, it is important to draw on examples from across and beyond Britain. Further, how did everyday life on local home fronts challenge or reinforce existing gender relations? Did this have any lasting effect beyond the peculiar circumstances of wartime?

Karen Hunt, University of Keele © September 2014

Karen Hunt is Professor of Modern British History at Keele University and is currently Head of Humanities Research at Keele, as well as Chair of the Social History Society (2014-17). Her publications cover many aspects of the gendering of politics (locally, nationally and transnationally) particularly from the 1880s to 1939, including Equivocal Feminists (1996) and Socialist Women (2002)(with June Hannam). Her current research juggles a number of intersecting interests: the life and politics of Dora Montefiore; interwar women’s politics, focusing on the local and the everyday; and women and the politics of food in the First World War. She is an advisor to the AHRC/BBC World War One at Home project in the West Midlands.


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce


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Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War & Conflict – Part 2

 - by whnadmin


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict

Women’s History Network Annual Conference, 2014


‘Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War & Conflict’ was the title and theme of the Women’s History Network Conference 2014, held in September at Worcester University. A large group of historians – independent scholars, affiliated with universities, holding posts in or associated with various institutions, students – undergraduate and post-graduate, spent three days presenting, debating, discussing and pondering on the role women played, primarily but not only in Britain during the First World War. Albeit – taking into account the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the ‘Great War’ - this was the major focus, some papers reflected not only on the First World War but on other major conflicts, including the Second World War.

Abstracts of papers by Jane Adams, Phillida Bunkle, Susan Cohen and Jo Ann Curtis presented at the Conference illustrate the breadth of topics. These papers are the second series of abstracts related to Britain and the First World War to be published on the blog. They raise questions that provided stimulating sessions at the Conference and that may engender further exchanges through the Blog.  Comments and discussion on the issues are invited from readers.

Robin R. Joyce (c) November 2014


 Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Herbs, herbalists and the home front

Within a few months of the outbreak of war in 1914 the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries issued a leaflet, The cultivation and collection of medicinal plants to encourage the growing of herbs in wartime. Commercial production had declined in Britain over the course of the nineteenth century and by 1914 demand by the pharmaceutical industry was met by supplies from German and Austrian territories. Women’s role of women in responding to the call to increase domestic production and their experiences on the home front had a profound impact in shaping British herbalism in the interwar period. The wartime campaign capitalised on the growing popularity of herb gardening in the early twentieth century, a pastime popular with female gardeners (Northcote, ‘The book of herbs’, 1912). Its leading campaigners included Ada Teetgen who published guidance for growers (Teetgen, ‘Profitable herb growing and collecting’, 1919) and Maude Grieve, who provided practical advice and tuition.

While the British state supported herb production, it discouraged the practice of medical herbalists and opposed the bill for their registration in 1923. However efforts to marginalise herbalists were undermined by the effects of the wartime campaign, including increased popular interest in growing and using herbs and better commercial networks, as well as the entrepreneurial flair of a new generation of practitioners, spearheaded by female herbalists. The Herb Society, established in 1927 by Hilda Leyel, offered members access to specialist advice while the concept ‘Culpepper’ shops offered medicinal, culinary and beauty products in modern retail settings. These initiatives reshaped the practice of British herbalists in the first half of the twentieth century.

Jane Adams, The Open University © September 2014


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce


Sustaining British Women’s Hospitals for Women in War and Peace

By 1914, 13 British hospitals providing medical services for women were staffed exclusively by women. Of these, six were specialist and seven were general hospitals. Together, they represented one of the most substantial and visible achievements of the Women’s Movement. The role of women doctors and nurses was widely legitimated by their high profile contribution to the WW1 war effort. But only one new women’s hospital for women was established after 1918 and the growth of the existing women’s hospitals largely stagnated. 30 years later, when these hospitals were absorbed into the NHS, they had ceased to be a significant force in women’s health.

Historians have argued that war, despite dividing the Women’s Movement, dramatically enhanced the status and options available to women. One example of attempts to maintain the momentum of feminism through war and depression can be found through examining the responses of the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital, the largest and oldest women’s hospital for women, to the WW1, WW2 and the inter and post war periods of austerity. Why this relative stagnation might have occurred requires exploration, together with adaptations both to war and austerity of the management structure of the institutions and the women who worked in the hospital, especially the nursing staff.

Through a set of management accounts, attempts by the hospital to maintain the momentum of the women’s community by continuing to mobilise philanthropic support for separatist women’s institutions can be evaluated. The conclusion is that, by 1948, the hospital was, because of reliance on female funding, particularly vulnerable to the financial restraints affecting the voluntary hospitals. As well, ideological shifts created tensions in the acceptance of all woman institutions. In what ways did this affected the impact of the welfare state on women? The perception of widely shared deprivation and the high level of civilian mobilisation, commensurate with that of serving soldiers, evidenced in the example of this institution, provides an insight into the high level of acceptance of the NHS, despite meagre provision for the needs of women staff and patients.

Phillida Bunkle, Kings College London © September, 2014


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

‘Angels’ or citizens: caring for the wounded on the home front

What role did women play as nurses on the Home Front, and what impact did this work have on their lives? Apart from the hundreds of qualified nurses who remained in Britain, mostly with the Territorial Force, many more women from all walks of life joined the VADs and undertook Red Cross training in basic nursing. Questions include what made the women join, what did they expect and how did they cope with the shock of the unprecedented injuries and disabilities from which the returning soldiers suffered? Accompanied by illustrations, “‘Angels’ or citizens … ” draws on the first-hand accounts of women working in the medical arena from 1914-1918, including Drs Louisa Garrett Anderson and Flora Murray, the doctors who ran the Endell Street military hospital in London. 

Susan Cohen, Independent Scholar © September, 2014


  Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce


Birmingham Women Remember: War-Work and the Home Front during the First World War

In 1981 Birmingham Museums conducted an oral history project in which participants were interviewed about their experiences of the ‘Great War’. The collection consists of over 30 interviews including 13 oral testimonies by women. The project broadly reflected the participants’ memories of daily life on the Home Front as well as the experiences of Birmingham men and women who served overseas, specifically on the Western Front. Drawing upon a selection of oral testimonies by Birmingham women, and exploring their perspectives on war-work and the Home Front during the First World War provides important insights into ‘women on the home front’.

Hence, the range of war-time work available to Birmingham women at this time highlights not only the dominance of munitions and ordnance production in the city, but also the role it played as a centre for military medicine and rehabilitation. The collection represents women who worked as munitions workers, in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), as nurses in Birmingham hospitals, as well as women who volunteered for the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and saw service overseas. To a lesser extent the project explored their perspectives on motherhood, poverty, food shortages and rationing.

Oral testimonies are a prominent feature in ‘Birmingham Museum’s history galleries: Birmingham, its people and its history’, which opened in October 2012. Approaches to the use of oral testimonies particularly in relation to issues associated with memory, remembering and interpretation within the context of Birmingham’s First and Second World War narratives are vital to exploring women’s history.

Jo-Ann Curtis, Birmingham Museums Trust © September, 2014


 Field Poppies

History NewsLetter

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Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict – Part 1

 - by whnadmin

 poppies.1long Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Revisiting Home Fronts: Gender, War and Conflict - Women’s History Network Annual Conference 2014

The breadth of topics covered by papers presented at the Women’s History Network 2014 Annual Conference is illustrated by abstracts of papers presented by Deborah Thom, Jane Berney and Sarah Bodell. These are the first of a series following on from an earlier WHN  Blog from the 2014 conference: ‘Women as Renegades: Fighting for Peace During War’, (accessed 20 November 2014)

Deborah Thom, Jane Berney and Sarah Bodell raise questions that provided stimulating sessions at the Conference. Publishing these abstracts on the WHN Blog provides the opportunity for comments and discussion from readers. Perhaps debate will not be as powerful as being at the Conference – where the excitement of multiple presentations, displays, exchanges in corridors and over lunch adds to the stimulation of the actual presentations with paper givers being present to respond. However, these are discussions worth continuing.      

Robin R. Joyce (c) November 2014


Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce


Women’s Work in the First World War: Evidence from the Accountancy Profession  

By November 1915 a quarter of ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) members and two-thirds of articled clerks had enlisted. As this was coupled with an increase in the demand for accountants particularly in the war ministries, it meant that there was a shortage of chartered accountants generally. But did this mean that women would be admitted as members of ICAEW to fill the gap? Women had been trying unsuccessfully since the 1890s to gain admission, a feat finally achieved in 1919. It is tempting but problematic to suggest that this was a fitting reward for the work performed by women during the war. In reality, however, ICAEW was forced to admit women following the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act and throughout the war the profession as a whole had resisted any attempt to admit women as members. But what is perhaps more surprising is that despite the significant numbers of women who were employed in wartime as accountants and audit clerks the number of women who applied to train as chartered accountants after 1919 can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Why should this be? The work women performed during the war and the type of women who undertook this work explains why the increase in the number of females employed as accountants in the war did not translate into a similar increase in female admissions to ICAEW after the war.

Jane Berney, Independent Scholar © September 2014poppiesflowers and paddington bear 028

Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Medical Missionary Women on the Home Front in the First and Second World Wars

Medical missionary women working in the slums of London on the eve of both world wars occupied a unique position through which gendered experiences of war on the Home Front can be studied today. Thousands of women worked in the capital in medical missions to the poor as physicians, nurses, dispensers, almoners, home visitors, and midwives in the early twentieth century. During times of crisis, their education and qualifications as medical professions, while being excluded from combat because of their gender, afforded these women unparalleled opportunities, both personally and professionally. Many of these women took up new positions outside medical missions – for instance, during the First World War, the head of the Bermondsey Medical Mission, Dr Selina Fox, became the first woman to be appointed governor of HM Prison Aylesbury. Many other remained in their positions within London’s medical missions working to meet the needs of their patients. During war, these ranged from frontline support of victims of air bombing raids, to material support of families who suffered more acutely in war, to the emotional and spiritual support of ‘courageous wives and mothers’. Others, yet, left the Home Front to serve as medical support staff on the frontlines of battle. This paper will explore the diverse stories of these women and their contributions to practical and emotional survival on the Home Front in the First and Second World Wars. It will show changes over time in how medical women supported the work on the Home Front and, even more importantly, how those efforts were received by those they tried to help.

Sarah Jane Bodell, University of Warwick © September 2014


Poppies at the Tower – Remembering World War I

Photography: Robin R. Joyce

Revisiting the History of the Public History of Women and War

War created instant history from 1916 and ever since the history of women and the First World War has been a synonym for thinking about a distinctive female contribution, about the politics of gender and the cultural and social history of war. Looking again at the history is a way of thinking about sources and method, thinking again about how far historians ‘disturb the ground on which they stand’ or how far they build new memorials to the past.

Deborah Thom, University of Cambridge © September 2014

Deborah Thom has taught history at Robinson College Cambridge for 27 years to social scientists, historians and students of History and Philosophy of Science. Her PhD and major book are on women’s work and the First World War and she has researched and published on feminism, education, child psychology and family. She is currently writing a book about corporal punishment in 20th century Britain and is a member of the academic advisory board for the Imperial War Museum gallery on the First World War.

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The First 40 Years – The Working Women’s Charter

 - by whnadmin


Why we need a new Working Women’s Charter


2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the Working Women’s Charter – a landmark list of 10 demands aiming to create a more equal world for women. The Charter linked trade unionism to feminism and other kinds of activism. It connected women’s social, economic, and sexual rights in new and powerful ways.

Forty years on, many of these rights have been won but deep inequalities persist around pay, opportunities, pensions, caring responsibilities and much more. What should a Working Women’s Charter for the 21st century include? What should women demand of political parties in the 2015 election?



In 1974, I was four. Things were on the up for my family. My own mother was picking up her career in the health service, having had ten years out with three children. She was able to do this for two reasons. First, her mother – my grandmother – had come to live with us and to look after me and my sisters. Second, my dad was very hands on. All this allowed my mum to combine home with full-time work as well as finding time to study as a mature student.

My mum – and many women like her – were part of a quiet but powerful revolution in British life. Today we’re all very familiar with the working mum. But she is a relatively new ‘returner’ to the labour market – with most only taking up paid work in large numbers from the 1960s onwards.

As soon as they did that, they had to find ways to juggle the demands of work and family. And in that moment, a new political agenda was born. It’s one we still struggle with today.






The first Working Women’s Charter – back in 1974 – was an early response to that struggle. At that point, that women’s movement was still gathering momentum. Its landmark moments were still fresh. In 1968, sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham car plant had won a major victory on the road to recognition– a story played out today on the West End stage in Made in Dagenham. They helped pave the way for the 1970 Equal Pay Act – passed in the same year that the first National Women’s Liberation conference was held. But the women at that conference and on the Dagenham assembly line knew then – as women know now – that legislation alone wouldn’t be enough.

The 1974 Charter was drawn up by women in trades unions and trades councils. It set out to change culture, not just change the law. From the start, it tried to bring the very different needs of very different groups of women workers under one banner: the needs of the minority heading into the higher professions and the needs of the majority employed in the mass labour market – women in shops, offices, assembly lines and more.



It was influenced by an earlier Australian feminist initiative. In 1943 Australian Women’s Charter was drawn up at the Australian Women’s Conference for Victory in War and Victory in Peace. It called for a wide-ranging program of reforms – from women’s right to paid work and child care to the particular needs of rural and Aboriginal women.

The 1974 Working Women’s Charter demanded equality in pay, opportunities, education, working conditions and legal rights. It demanded free childcare, free contraception and abortion, increased maternity leave and family allowances, job security for women returning from maternity leave. Finally, it called for more women in public and political life.

It was a classic statement of the women’s movement – insisting that the personal was political, that what happened in the workplace and public life could not be separated from what happened at home and in hearts, minds and bodies.





The Charter was much debated. Its cause wasn’t helped, however, by its rejection by the TUC – the Trades Union Congress – at its 1975 conference. TUC delegates opposed the idea of a women’s minimum wage as a route to equal pay and did not want to address abortion. They also argued that the TUC’s own 12 point charter covered much of the same ground. By contrast, the earlier Australian Women’s Charter seems to have been more influential in shaping postwar reconstruction plans.

Today, interest in the 1974 Charter stems from a concern with how far we have come since then. Forty years on – how many of those 10 demands have been met?

I’d say that a just four out of the 10 demands have been met over the last four decades. Women now have broadly equal access to (1) education and (2) legal rights. Most have much improved access to (3) contraception and abortion. There have been increases in (4) family allowances although recent reforms have undermined that gain.





We are still chasing the other six demands: (1) access to free or affordable childcare, (2) equal pay, (3) equal opportunities, (4) equal working conditions, (5) job security for women returning from maternity leave and (6) more women in public and political life.

In all these areas, there’s a long haul ahead. In 2013, Price Waterhouse Coopers ranked the UK a shocking 18th out of 27 OECD countries in its Women in Work Index based on a measure combining five key indicators:

  • the equality of earnings with men;
  • the proportion of women in work;
  • the gap between female and male labour force participation;
  • the female unemployment rate; and
  • the proportion of women in full-time employment.

And here are some equally outrageous figures on the under-representation of women in public life, political life and private sector leadership today. In national politics, only 23% of MPs and 21% of peers are women. In local politics, around one third of councilors and one tenth of council leaders are women. In the boardroom, women make up just 17% of FTSE 100 boards and 11% of FTSE 250 boards. In higher education, just 14% of UK universities have a woman Vice Chancellor. This is also, of course, a personal challenge for us as women ourselves.

In the nineteenth century, we were formally barred from the professions and from public office. Now there’s apparently nothing to stop us yet we don’t see change on the ground at the pace we want. I’d agree that more women need to step up, lean in, hang in, and strike all the other poses currently recommended by management gurus. But old cultures die hard. And structural barriers – of the kind identified by Price Waterhouse Coopers – are hard to overcome. I believe that a new Working Women’s Charter would help us to overcome them. With an election coming, this is the perfect time to draw one up.



Elections are often won and lost on women’s swing votes. The next one will be no exception. What better time to start a serious debate on the things that matter to women – and to working women in particular?

Of course, this debate is already taking place across the country in organisations from Mumsnet to the 30 Per Cent Group, and from the Fawcett Society to many employers. Just this week, Asda finds itself forced to into the debate via a legal challenge from thousands of its women employees embarking on a new battle for equal pay and recognition.

And in Newham, the women activists of Focus E15 may have ended their occupation of empty flats but their battle for basic housing continues.A new Working Women’s Charter could transform these debates – not because a new list of new demands will change anything on its own but because it could harness the energy and promise of growing ‘third wave feminism’. It could help to find common cause between many different women across many different workplaces.

And that will be the key to scoring more than 4 out of 10 in the next 40 years.

Pam Cox (c) October 2014


Pamela Cox is Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, University of Essex and one of the impressive list of speakers at the 1 day event held in London on Saturday 8 November 2014, King’s College London, to celebrate the 1974 Working Women’s Charter, explore the many challenges that women in Britain still face, and spark ideas about how these might be overcome.

‘Why we need a new Working Women’s Charter – Celebrating the 1974 Working Women’s Charter’, (accessed 7 November 2014)







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Vale Leonore Davidoff (1932-2014)

 - by whnadmin


Leonore Davidoff (1932-2014)

It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Professor Leonore Davidoff on 19th October at the age of 82. Leonore had a long and continuous association with the Sociology Department at the University of Essex dating back to 1969 when she was first appointed as a Research Officer, right through to her recent Professor Emerita. In the years between she was a lecturer and senior lecturer in the Department and a Research Professor from 1990. Her contribution to the study and teaching of gender, women’s history, gender history and social history more generally is incalculable and deeply appreciated by generations of students from around the world, many of whom have become eminent scholars in their own right, inspired by her work.

Leonore was born in New York to Jewish immigrant parents from Eastern Europe, and originally studied music at Oberlin College (breaking with the family tradition of studying medicine) before switching to sociology. At 21 she left the United States to pursue graduate studies at the London School of Economics, writing her MA on `The Employment of Married Women’, a substantial 300 page dissertation by research. Her topic had not previously been studied, nor indeed been considered a serious field for research, but this prescient work broke new ground, signalling a first step in founding the new research field of women’s history.


At LSE also she met her husband, the sociologist David Lockwood (who died earlier this year), and moved with him first to Cambridge and then to Essex, while bringing up their three sons. Leonore was acutely aware of the marginalisation of ‘faculty wives’ at this time and the lack of seriousness accorded to the work of women academics, especially if they were wives or mothers. She greatly valued her membership, as Senior Fellow, of Lucy Cavendish College in Cambridge which had been expressly established by marginal women for mature women scholars who were otherwise ignored and isolated.

In Essex her research developed with a project on domestic service and household management in the 19th and 20th centuries. She went on to undertake a series of innovative studies on the relationships between public and private, servants and wives, lodgers, and business, work and family. These revealed the complex intertwining of kin, surrogate kin and business relationships in England from the late 18th century. During the 1970s she published The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette and the Season, as well as a series of influential articles including ‘Mastered  for life: servant and wife in Victorian and Edwardian England’, ‘Domestic service and the working class life cycle’, ‘Landscape with figures: home and community in English society’ (with Jean L’Esperance and Howard Newby),  ‘The rationalisation of housework’, ‘The Separation of Home and Work? Landladies and lodgers in 19th and 20th century’, ‘Class and gender in Victorian England’, ‘The role of gender in the first industrial nation: agriculture in England 1780-1850’. As the titles suggest, these groundbreaking articles highlighted and dissected differing aspects of the intertwining of family, home and work in a completely novel way.  Many were republished in Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class (1995).


During the 1980s, Leonore collaborated with Catherine Hall to produce their seminal Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 (1987), a book that has been recognised as transforming understanding of nineteenth century life.  Based on detailed case studies of urban Birmingham and rural East Anglia, Leonore and Catherine chart the advance of capitalist enterprise in England at the end of the 18th century, and the emergence of its particular family form among the middle class that stressed separate spheres for men and women, demonstrating the centrality of the gendered division of labour within families for the development of capitalist enterprise. Now a classic, this book achieved worldwide acclaim.


From the 1970s Leonore combined her scholarly studies with support for women’s history and women historians. She was actively involved in the Feminist History Group based in London, and was co-founder of the Women’s Research and Resources Centre, later the Feminist Library. She devoted an enormous amount of time and energy to creating the international journal Gender and History and was its founding editor from 1987 until 1994, establishing it as the foremost and most successful journal in its field. At a 2004 event marking Leonore’s retirement from active involvement in the journal, speakers from around the world attested to her influence as researcher and author, teacher and mentor, and colleague, collaborator and friend.

Retirement did not, however, imply withdrawal from scholarly research. She dedicated almost a decade to the meticulous research and writing that culminated in her final book Thicker than Water: Siblings and their Relations, 1780-1920, published by Oxford late in 2012 just before her 80th birthday. This pioneering study is yet to receive its full recognition. Leonore demonstrates the significance of sibling relationships and their key role in the extensive family networks that provided the capital, personnel, skills and contracts crucial to the rapidly expanding commercial and professional enterprises of the era, and how these changed as families became smaller from the end of the 19th century. Through studies of particular families (including the Freuds, Gladstones, Wedgwoods and Darwins), she explored sibling intimacy and incest, and some famous brother-sister relationships.


Leonore and her work are held in the highest esteem around the world. She played a central role in establishing the International Federation for Research in Women’s History, an organisation including over 26 member countries. She was a regular speaker at the annual Berkshire Conference on Women’s History, and held visiting professorships and fellowships at Rutgers, Harvard, Madison and Melbourne amongst many other universities in North America and Australia, as well as in many continental European universities. In 2000 she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Bergen for her path-breaking analyses and their international impact.

Despite her international reputation, Leonore was extremely modest, not one for self-promotion. She never forgot the obstacles encountered by women in the academy, and remained vigorous in their defence and generous in her support of younger colleagues. On hearing of her death tributes have flowed from all over the world from her former students and colleagues, many echoing the sentiment that ‘Leonore visited several times and had many, many friends. She was a great inspiration to us all, and she will be very sorely missed.’ This is also true of us here at Essex. Her legacy will live on and be taken up by others.


Leonore Davidoff (1932-2014)

Miriam Glucksmann (c) 21 October 2014

Professor Miriam Glucksmann holds a BA and PhD from the University of London and is Professor of Sociology at the University of Essex. Previously having taught at Brunel, Leicester and South Bank Universities in the United Kingdom, she began at Essex University in 1991. She has held research fellowships in the UK (the Ginsberg Research Fellowship at the LSE and the Hallsworth Senior Research Fellowship at the University of Manchester) and abroad (in 1998 at the Research School of Social Sciences at Australian National University in Canberra and at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences in Uppsala).  Professor Glucksmann was Head of the Sociology Department at Essex between 1999 and 2001.  From 2004 to 2006, she was funded by an ESRC Professorial Fellowship to undertake a 3 year program of research in - Transformations of Work: New Frontiers, Shifting Boundaries, Changing Temporalities ( and is currently writing a book based on this research. Elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2005, she was awarded the ‘Kerstin Hesselgren’ Visiting Professorship for 2007 by the Swedish Research Council, hosted by the Economic History Department of Stockholm University. Presently Professor Glucksmann is funded (2010-2013) by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator Grant to undertake a programme of research on ‘Consumption Work and Societal Divisions of Labour’.

Note: This obituary first appeared on the University of Essex website: (accessed 5 November 2014). Thanks to Professor Glucksmann and the University of Essex for permission to reproduce the obituary here.




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Ethical Food – Food, Production & Ethics

 - by whnadmin





Unless we have a smallholding and are self sufficient, the food we eat is brought to us by a complex global food system. Issues of justice and fairness are evident across the wholesystem.  Women play a key role in food: in much of the developing world, women make up over 50%, in some cases 70%, of the workforce in agriculture. In the west, nearly 3/4 women remain responsible for food buying, cooking, and maintaining the health of their children. (Global Trends Survey 2014)



1. Poverty
• The world population is increasing -

7 billion now, rising to an estimated 9 billion in 2050. There are immense inequalities in access to adequate, healthy food – Food and Agrictural Organization (FAO) estimates that 16 million people are undernourished in developing countries.

• Role of women in agriculture in developing world -

Women are not only involved in crop production, but also have diverse roles as labourers and in animal rearing. Women often can be the first to be marginalised as agriculture is increasingly mechanised. Women tend to have less access to resources, finance or training than men, so land farmed by women is often less productive. If women worldwide had the same access to productive resources as men, this could increase yields on women’s farms by 20–30% and raise total agricultural output by 2.5–4%. Gains in agricultural production alone could lift 100 to 150 million people out of hunger, according to a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate. A key to achieving this is to strengthen women’s land rights in parts of the world.




• Food poverty is also an issue in the United Kingdom, with unequal access to good quality food. Foodbanks are opening at the rate of 5 a week ( and rickets is on the increase. In late October 2014, CEDAR reported that the price gap between more and less healthy food is growing.



2. Land who owns the land?

• Land grabs, many for biofuel production or to ensure food security for the new land owners mean poverty increases as food production is removed from the hands and power of local people. Action Aid uses a definition of land grabs that draws on the Tirana Declaration, agreed at a 2011 international conference. The Declaration defines land grabs as deals  that are “in violation of human rights, particularly the equal rights of women, not based on principles of free, prior and informed consent, or are in disregard of, or fail to thoroughly assess, social, economic and environmental impacts, not based on transparent contracts  … ” or are not based on “effective democratic planning, independent oversight and meaningful participation”.

• Impact of land grabs – people forced off their land and deprived of livelihoods.

• Oxfam observes that more than 60 per cent of investments in agricultural land is by foreign investors, between 2000 and 2010 these investments took place in developing countries with serious hunger problems. However, two-thirds of those investors plan to export everything they produce on that land.

• Food sovereignty - puts the people who produce, distribute and consume food at the centre of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the demands of markets and corporations believed to have come to dominate the global food system.



3. Trade and ethics

• Fair trade and ethical trade play a part in ensuring the grower and producer gain a better  income and supports community infrastructure.

• Food commodity trading, resulting in profits for the investors rather than the producers. Should food be a commodity that attracts speculative investment and the hope of fast profits?

• The food system is controlled by a few multinationals (for example, Cargill, ADM, Bunge).


• Concern over the impact of GM and control of access to seeds by the seed suppliers, rather than the farmer being free to save seed or seek alternative supplies.

• Example of asparagus growing in Peru – Felicity Lawrence in the Guardian – for every $ US 1.00  spent by the United States consumer, 70c stays in the US, but Peru doesn’t even gain the full benefit of the remaining 30 cents, because a large portion of the 30 cents Peru makes returns to the US anyway: it is spent by Peruvians on US seed, US materials for processing, US fertiliser
and US pesticides. US-based vegetable corporations, Del Monte and General Mills Green Giant, have been able to enjoy lower land values, cheap labour and low environmental costs by moving some of their production to Peru. The handful of corporations that dominate the global markets in seed, fertiliser, pesticides, trading, distribution and retailing take care of the rest.



• Rise of supermarkets in Asia – bypassing local traditional food production systems.

• Western subsidies for agriculture – much of European Union (EU) budget goes to large corporations or transnational companies (for exmaple, in the UK, Tate and Lyle).

• TTIP – the trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and US contains the Investor State Dispute Settlement, which would enable companies to sue governments for loss of profits if their product could not be sold – for example, currently there is a ban in the EU on the use of growth hormone in beef; if this trade agreement is enacted, EU countries including the UK could be sued, or let the product in.




• This years grain harvest (2014): The ‘Financial Times’ of 23 September 2014 reports: ‘Global grain supplies this year are soaring’:

‘The new abundance will have broad effects, weakening incomes of farmers and companies that supply them, fattening profit margins at food and biofuel companies and - eventually – slowing price inflation for consumers in rich and poor countries alike.’

• In the UK and EU, the large supermarkets play an important role in controlling the market and prices – their relationship with farmers and producers produces unfair contracts, lack of certainty about using the whole crop, and waste resulting from artificial cosmetic standards.

4. Ethics and the environment

• I believe in the concept of stewardship, looking after the earth and leaving it in a fit state for future generations.

• The impact of climate change, caused by industrialised nations and felt by countries in developing world through increased climate unpredictability or drought is significant.

• Ethics of production – depletion of natural resources, degradation of soil through intensive farming practices, concerns about animal welfare in intensive rearing, over useof water resources to grow crops for export (for example, potatoes in Egypt, tomatoes in southern Spain, asparagus in Peru) or for grain to feed cattle. The issue of food waste is important, too.




5. Human rights

• Abuses of human rights through forced labour, or slave labour occur throughout the world, for example slave labour in Thailand on fishing boats for prawn food, child labour in chocolate production in Western Africa, migrant labour in agriculture in western Europe – for example, tomato production in Italy and Spain

• FAO May 2014 reports on Child labour – 98 million boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 17 identified as working in agriculture and fisheries globally (Western Africa, Brazil, southern India and Thailand significantly).

• In the UK there is a history of use of migrant workers in agriculture, poorly paid, poorly housed and with little job security. The recent case of a gang master in Armagh fined £500 for keeping migrant apple pickers in inhumane conditions illustrates howlightly we take abuses of this kind.


FOOD images


Final questions

The language of ethical production, social responsibility and sustainability is now common currency, all the large agribusiness companies (for example, Nestle, Cargill, ADM) include explicit claims on their web sites, but do these claims match the reality?

Can a food system, driven by market forces and an ethos of profit making, ever provide a truly ethical food system, where natural resources are nurtured, people are valued and access to adequate healthy food is a reality across the globe?

Ann Mitchell (c) October 2014

Ann Mitchell spent nearly forty years in primary education, first as a classroom teacher, then as head teacher in schools in Hertfordshire and Cambridge. After she retired, a television programme about food waste sparked an interest in the food system and its environmental impact. Galvanised into action, she joined Transition Cambridge Food Group and has taken part in food related projects aimed at encouraging people to grow more of their own food and to eat more sustainably. She is now secretary of the recently formed Cambridge Sustainable Food (part of the national Sustainable Food Cities Network), bringing together individuals, community groups and public and private sector organisations, as well as local food producers and health professionals, to promote food that is good for people, good for community and good for the planet. She has given talks on a range of food issues at local conferences and events.

Sources For Further Information

Oxfam. The Food Transformation 2012 and The Future of Agriculture

CEDAR grows/

Note: Presented as ‘Producing What We Eat – food for life’ at the WWAFE (Women Worldwide Advancing Freedom & Equality) seminar at the House of Lords, Westminster, London on 23 October 2014.


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WOMAN SLAYS VAMPIRE vs READER, SHE MARRIED HIM … Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs Twilight

 - by whnadmin


The contrast between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight could not be greater. In character and character development, as well as plot, Buffy eclipses the anodyne Twilight series. Buffy is a character in her own right, a woman who, albeit a student still, knows her own mind, acts independently, and leads her team. Even when she consults with her teacher – the school principal, a man ‘in charge’ of the educational institution where Buffy meets and matches the vampires she slays, she consults with him on a basis of equality. He may advise and mentor, but on Buffy’s terms and on Buffy’s ground. She seeks when she chooses to seek information. She assesses and assimilates where she makes the decision that the information imparted is ‘right’. It is no surprise that followers of Buffy included women who took on powerful roles in the polity – at least one, the former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja -  going on to lead her political party (the Australian Democrats – AD).




Sadly, it is difficult to imagine any of Twilight’s adherents being propelled into independent action, much less political leadership. Publicity for the books, now film series, stays true to the idea of woman-as-server, woman-as-marriage-material, woman-as-secondary-to-leader (and leading) man. Film advertisements show Bella as secondary to Edward – his junior in height as well as intellect (although attributing to one or the other this capacity overstates the fictional reality). Edward invariably looms, Bella invariably succumbs, diminished, supplicant, seeking his protection, his strength to her weakness: after all, she is but a ‘girl’.


Buffy played on US and global television screens from 1997 to 2003. Twilight came shortly after, first as a series of novels, then a series of full-length feature films. Publication of the novels upon which the films are based commenced with the first volume, Twilight, in 2005 with the films released in 2008, 2009, 2010, climaxing in the final two full-length features manufactured from the fourth novel – these films being released in 2011 and 2012.

Comparing and contrasting these two popular series – one playing on television (with one feature length film in 2002), the other screening in multiplex cinemas throughout the Western world at least, provides insights into the struggle between popular media creating and promoting strong, independent women characters, and providing viewers (and readers) with submissive, male and marriage dependent ciphers.



Though Buffy as the leading character in the series bearing her name was played by a slim, blonde beauty, this did not detract from her obvious vigour, ‘fight’ capacity and generally powerful demeanour. The ‘main’ female character in Twilight (no leader nor leading character, she)displays none of this: droopy, pale, bedraggled of hair, her expressions (when they appear) confined to soupy looks directed at the principal male character and, at times, at his rival, it is impossible to see her acting independently, much less playing the major role. Buffy exists as a woman who can act on her own, albeit leading a committed team. Isabella (Bella) Swan’s existence is entirely framed on her relationships with the male characters. When Buffy interacts with male characters, it is as an equal – even where one major male character is far older and in an authority position.





How is it that in less than twenty short years, popular media went from Buffy, powerful, strong, committed and a leader, the main character in her own television series, with the task of destroying the vampire, whilst pale, wan, characterless Bella marries him? Even the titles of these popular vehicles indicate the heights from which a woman can fall – Buffy, the Slayer, to Bella, the housewife … ‘Twilight’ is too aptly named, indeed.

Jocelynne A. Scutt (c) October 2014

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19th Century Women – Possessions, Photographs, Posters & Postcards …

 - by whnadmin



The University of Wisconsin-Madison, has launched an important collection of 19th and early 20th century women’s everyday possessions. Situated online through the University Library, the Dovie Horvitz Collection of objects and printed works came  into being through the dedicated work of Illinois-based collector Dovie Horvitz. Women’s Studies Librarian Emerita Phyllis Holman Weisbard writes that the collection ‘comprises photographs of women’s everyday possessions, as well as numerous digitized texts (magazines, books, postcards, posters and more)’. Dovie Horvitz ‘hopes to find an institutional home for the entire collection some day’ and, adds Phyllis Holman, ‘perhaps the presence of the photographs and digitized works will spark that interest’.

As Phyllis Holman Weisbard reports:

Objects in the collection include clothing (dresses, hosiery, bustles, garters, swimwear, undergarments, aprons, and more), accessories such as shoes and boots, hats, gloves, purses, fans, handkerchiefs, furs, and parasols; menstrual and other health products; cosmetic and grooming its, powders, and related make-up items; dresser sets (combs and brushes); curling irons and other hair care devices; perfumes; boudoir pillow covers; eye glasses; and exercise equipment. The printed matter includes numerous women’s magazines, Sunday supplement illustrations, sheet music about women, suffrage postcards, World War I and II posters, photographs of teen parties, and pamphlets about sex, health, and menstruation. Page after page of ad-filled women’s magazines, as well as pckaging elements such as hairnet envelopes, hosiery, handkerchief and hat boxes, constitute an important part of the collection …


The majority of items are American in origin. However, some come from elsewhere, with a set of suffrage postcards from the United Kingdom and several other items from France, Germany or the United Kingdom.  This should not be surprising, because the 19th century saw women travelling all over the world in pursuit of sisterhood and Women’s Movements ideals. US journalist Jessie Ackerman visited Australia so often that she has been labelled a major force in the Australian women’s struggle for the vote. As WCTU world representative, she spent three months in South Australia having travelled via Aotearoa/New Zealand. The following year she returned to Australia, building on her earlier work in supporting the antipodean arms of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and in 1891 becoming inaugural president of the federated Australasian WCTU – at the time ‘Austalia’s largest women’s reform group’. In 1893 she was back in Australia, then was off to Europe, living in London and returning to Australia in May 1907 as world president of an Anglican organisation, the Girl’s Realm Guild of Service. In 1910 she returned to work in Western Australia for the Australian Women’s National League as a political organiser. In 1913 her book ‘Australia From a Woman’s Point of View’ was published. As Ian Tyrell in the Australian Dictionary of Biography entry on Jessie Ackerman says:

… record[ing] her forthright impressions of her Australian W.C.T.U. work and travels, and … a significant commentary on the position of women in Australia in the early twentieth century. By the time she moved to Johnson City, Tennessee, in the 1920s she claimed she had circumnavigated the globe eight times.

Returning to the Dovie Horvitz Collection, for information and ease of reference, each object comes with a description and metadata. Phyllis Holman notes that as far as possible, LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings) and AAT (Art & Archicture Thesaurus Online) have been used for descriptors, however:

… some of the objects had no obvious heading in either system. That says something about women’s things …

Phyllis Holman concludes that the Collection:

… seems of most immediate interest to women’s history classes, but American literature, communication arts (especially marketing), medical history, design, and other fields should also find it useful …

And, as she says: ‘It is also simply a pleasure to browse!’

DOVIEHORPhyllis Holman Weisbard TZdh0087l-300x190


Compiled by Jocelynne A. Scutt from material provided

by Phyllis Holman and Dovie Horvitz (c) October 2014

Note: The fully searchable and browsable online collection homepage is at

An article about the collection is at

Phyllis Holman Weisbard, Women’s Studies Librarian Emerita,<>




Blair’s Snow White bleaching cream 2010.29.3b

From the Dovie Horvitz Collection / UW Digital Collections


Bum pad, ca. 1877
2010.1.2 From the Dovie Horvitz Collection / UW Digital Collections


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End All Violence Against Women!

 - by whnadmin



Every year, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we are reminded how every day women and girls experience violence in their lives. Women are beaten in their homes, harassed on the streets, bullied on the Internet. Globally, one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence at some point in her life. The World Health Organization has declared violence against women to be a global health problem of epidemic proportions.

More often than not, violence against women is committed by an intimate partner. Of all women killed in 2012, almost half died at the hands of a partner or family member. It is not an exaggeration but a fact that the overall greatest threat to women’s lives is men, and often the men they love.

In some conflict situations, it may be more dangerous to be a girl or a woman than to be a soldier. Violence against women has become a real epidemic that must be stopped.

Yet we know how violence against women can be eliminated. In 1995, close to 20 years ago, 189 governments came together in Beijing. They adopted a Platform for Action that spelled out key strategies for governments, civil society, the private sector, international partners and all stakeholders to end violence against women, empower women, and achieve gender equality. Last year, the UN Commission on the Status of Women further defined what needs to be done.



This includes effective prevention strategies that address the root causes of gender inequality and the lower status of women in all spheres of life. Whether it is in the economy or in the political sphere, women continue to be disadvantaged and marginalized. Instead, we need families, communities and nations where women and men are equally valued and where women can participate fully.

This includes better services for women surviving violence. Hotlines, shelters, legal advice, access to justice, counselling, police protection, and health services should be readily available, without fear of stigmatization or discrimination.

This includes more accurate reporting rates, better data collection, and strengthened analyses of risk and prevalence factors.

This includes greater support for women’s organizations, which are often on the frontline of the response. They advocate for policy change, they provide technical expertise to enhance the response, and they deliver services to survivors.

This includes having more men and boys standing up against violence, denouncing it, and stopping it. Male leaders, including traditional and religious leaders, must show the way. They must support efforts to end impunity and ensure justice for those attacked.



UN Women has launched #HeForShe, a global campaign to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights. Close to 200,000 men have already signed up. We need men who believe in gender equality to take action now.

A global review of progress and gaps in implementing the Beijing Platform for Action is underway and more than 150 governments have sent national reports. Preliminary data show that many countries have introduced laws to prohibit, criminalize, and prevent violence against women. Yet implementation and enforcement of these laws are inadequate. Reporting of violence remains low and impunity for perpetrators remains high. Not enough resources are targeted at provision of quality services and effective prevention strategies. We must call for action and help with implementation.



Wherever I go, I feel a sense of urgency that suggests that this is the moment to turn the tide on violence against women and achieve gender equality. Next year, after the endpoint of the Millennium Development Goals, a new roadmap for development will be adopted by the international community. Ending violence against women and girls must have a central place in this new framework.

The promises from 20 years ago are still valid today. Together we must make 2015 the year that marks the beginning of the end of gender inequality. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to end violence against women and girls everywhere in the world.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (c) October 214


UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has devoted her life to issues of human rights, equality and social justice. She previously served as Deputy President of South Africa. Her message stresses that violence against women can and must end by addressing its root cause – gender inequality. Greater mobilization to address the pandemic on many levels is essential, from increasing access to services for survivors of violence to engaging all segments of society to shift cultural mindsets. This includes ensurin men stand up on the issue through UN Women’s #HeForShe campaign.

See more at: (accessed 30 October 2014)

Thanks to From: (accessed 30 October 2014)




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