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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 866: CD-88: DVD-115: T-515: Vt-276

Papers of Elizabeth Farians, 1880-2013 (inclusive), 1942-2013 (bulk)


Writings, correspondence, and papers collected and created by theologian, feminist, animal rights advocate, and social justice activist Elizabeth Farians.


  • Creation: 1880-2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1942-2013

Language of Materials

Materials in English and French.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Elizabeth Farians is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


16.3 linear feet ((38 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 5 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 6 photograph folders, 38 audiotapes, 1 videotape, 2 CDs, 2 DVDs, 2 objects)
149.3 Megabytes (251 files)

The Elizabeth Farians papers trace Farians' professional career as a theologian and religious educator, and the challenges she faced pursuing permanent teaching positions, as well as her work as a feminist and environmental and social justice activist. Her background in the Catholic church provided the framework which informed her life as an activist. The papers document her involvement in the National Organization for Women and in other organizations, and on issues related to sex discrimination in employment, women's limited role within the church, civil rights, pacifism and the Vietnam war. Farians' views and activism related to abolishing capital punishment and promoting animal rights are also documented. The collection contains correspondence, writings by Farians and others, photographs, audiovisual materials, and extensive materials collected by Farians throughout her life, including clippings, flyers and brochures from organizations, and buttons. The collection was not in any clear order when it arrived at the Library and papers were often not filed in labeled folders. The archivist focused her efforts on creating order and limiting extensive cases of overlap; however, due to the nature of the documentation, and the interrelatedness among the activist causes supported by Farians, some overlap within and among series and subseries remain. Where possible, original folder titles have been maintained and appear in quotation marks; remaining titles were created by the archivist. Electronic records were received on 27 3.5" disks and three compact disks. Disks were imaged using FTK Imager. Files have been intellectually grouped by series or subseries, and are indicated by "E.#" in the inventory.

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1931-2013 (#1.1-6.3, E.1-E.3, F+D.1-F+D.2), contains primarily papers related to Farians education; biographical statements and resumes; and materials, including speech transcripts related to Farians' and her mother's memorial services. Folders identified as doctoral work contain research materials, notes, clippings, tests or worksheets, and handouts. Some of these folders, which were all originally stored together, may possibly relate to Farians' general research or her teaching during and post-doctorate. There is a small amount of correspondence with family and friends, primarily regarding her activist work. Also included is Farians' web site, captured as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection, containing biographical information. See also #23.9 and #34.12 for additional biographical information and #CD-88.2 for audio of Farians' memorial service. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series II, TEACHING AND RELATED, 1942-2008 (#6.4-17.7, E.4-E.5), contains material documenting the bulk of Farians' professional work teaching physical education, philosophy, and theology, as well as her work developing programs and courses. Teaching and class materials include teaching notes, lectures, handouts, class evaluations, outlines, syllabi, exercises, and exams. This series also contains correspondence related to Farians' search for teaching positions; and notes, clippings, and other materials which may be related to her teaching or research, although it is unclear (#9.5-10.7). In particular, this series documents the challenges Farians faced surrounding her teaching career as a theologian, including the multiple terminations from teaching jobs and her efforts to obtain fair treatment in employment. Of note are case files, correspondence, printed materials, exhibits and other supporting materials related to Farians' complaint of sex discrimination against Loyola University. Farians began employment at Loyola University in September 1968, teaching in the department of theology. The university did not renew her contract in 1970, citing economic reasons. Farians, however, was the only full-time female professor in the department and the only person cut from the staff. Farians' lawsuit files include letters from organizations and individuals who supported her case, including NOW; NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund; the United States Department of Housing, Education, and Welfare (HEW); Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; senators and congressmen, such as Ed Koch, Patsy Mink, and Thomas Luken; and the Women's Equity Action League. After a monetary settlement in 1972, the case was closed by HEW. Farians, who found the settlement unjust, reopened the case in 1975 with the legal assistance of Marcia Greenberger at the Center for Law and Social Policy, arguing for a reinstatement of her teaching contract or sufficient payment of back pay. The United States Department of Labor did not want to take further action against Loyola University and the case was dropped. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series III, ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISM, 1880-2013 (#17.8-39.10, E.6-E.10, FD.1, F+D.3-F+D.5, OD.1-OD.2), contains papers related to Farians' activist work surrounding the role of women in society and in the Catholic church, sex discrimination and equal rights, civil rights, the eradication of capital punishment, and environmental justice and animal rights. The series is divided into subseries by topic: feminism, women and the church, eco-feminism, and peace and social justice. The materials in this series include writings, speeches, articles and clippings, research materials, notes, reports, flyers, printed materials, including flyers, stickers, bookmarks, and brochures. There is some overlap in content among the subseries, which demonstrates the interconnectedness among these various causes and philosophies. Records relating to national and chapter NOW activities are located in subseries A and B and in the Papers of NOW officer Elizabeth Farians, 1965-1973 (MC 480).

Subseries A, Feminism, 1880, 1951-2007 (#17.8-24.5, E.6, FD.1, F+D.3), contains materials created or collected by Farians relating to feminist issues and organizations. This subseries includes records of the National Organization for Women and chapter groups, and includes press releases, correspondence, and statements regarding early actions and activities related to discrimination against women. Farians also advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment (#19.7-20.8) and these files contain testimonies, press releases, clippings, correspondence, statements from legislators, and Congressional resolutions, as well as materials from NOW's Equal Rights Amendment Committee. Most files contain some clippings and printed materials collected by Farians and which sometimes quote or mention her. The clippings files (#18.4-19.5) contain articles about women and politics; women and culture; sports; the feminist movement and demonstrations; discrimination in academics and business; etc. Of additional note is Farians' speech at the Brown University commencement in 1973, which focused on women's role in society and the value of feminist thinking. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries B, Women and the church, 1912-2013 (#24.6-34.10, E.7, F+D.4, OD.1), includes documentation related to Farians' interest and concern about women's limited role in the Christian church and her efforts to promote greater equality for women in religious life. Included are correspondence and notes related to the development and activities of the organizations Farians founded: the Ecumenical Task Force on Women and Religion of NOW and the Joint Committee of Organizations Concerned with the Status of Women in the Church. Of particular interest are correspondence and writings related to the Joint Committee's efforts to have their voices heard by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops about the status of women in the Catholic church and proposed changes to end discrimination (1971) (#30.7-30.8). Also included are correspondence and printed materials from other organizations and movements with which Farians was involved, including St. Joan's International Alliance, which worked to secure equality in all aspects of society; and the underground church movement, which advocated experimentation and social action. In 1964, Farians visited the Dominican Secular Institute of Orleans, France. The institute espouses the Christian ideals of poverty, chastity, and obedience while its members participate in the secular world. Although the institute was not particularly feminist in its views, Farians became interested in the institute and possibly in developing an American outpost, including bringing in new members (#28.4-30.2). A majority of the institute files are in French. The files of clippings contain articles from both secular and religious newspapers, including the National Catholic Reporter, and some quote or mention Farians. Topics generally relate to the struggle for women's full participation in the church and the ordination of women priests, as well as issues surrounding abortion and women's equality. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries C, Eco-feminism and animal rights, 1967-2013 (#34.11-37.12, E.8-E.9, F+D.5, OD.2), contains materials created or collected by Farians related to her interests in environmental justice and animal rights and the connection between animal rights, Christian ethics, and feminist principles. Included are correspondence and printed materials regarding animal rights demonstrations, including against parish festivals that used animals for entertainment. Farians collected a large quantity of printed flyers, brochures, handouts, postcards, bookmarks, and booklets providing information and listing resources and vegan recipes (#36.10-37.5) from organizations such as PETA, Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Vegan Outreach, etc. This subseries also includes printed materials and a slide show on eco-feminism and animal liberation from Feminists for Animal Rights, an organization Farians co-founded, as well as printed materials regarding Essenism and Jainism, suggesting her interest in alternative spiritual theologies emphasizing the interconnectedness of all beings. Farians also co-designed animal rights and peace posters by contributing her poems (#E.9, F+D.5, OD.2). Poster artists included Gilbert Born, Mary Ann Lederer, Mary Jane Newborn, Richard Brown, Alex Zatik, and E. Joan Rohrer. Many of these posters were exhibited in the group art show, "SOSArt," an annual installation of socio-political works for peace and justice at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Subseries D, Peace and social justice, 1965-2002 (#37.13-39.10, E.10), includes printed materials, clippings, brochures, correspondence, and notes related to multiple peace and social justice organizations and actions. This subseries contains printed materials and correspondence related to the Catonsville Nine, a group of Catholic activists who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. There are also correspondence, clippings, and flyers related to the life events of peace activists Reverend Ernest Bromley, who participated in numerous peace and civil rights protests in Cincinnati, Ohio; and the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Maurice McCrackin, the pastor at the Community Church of Cincinnati and a fellow peace activist who fought against racism, prison conditions, and war. Farians was involved with the Committee to Free Reverend McCrackin during his prison term in 1979 (#39.1-39.4). This subseries is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1924-2013 (#PD.1-PD.6, E.11-E.12), visually documents Farians' life and work. Included are images of her as a child and of her parents, poolside at Girls Town as a physical education instructor, and with the girls basketball (or volleyball) team of the Catholic Youth Organization, with members of the church, and at animal rights protests. Also included are images of Father Dominic Ferrara pastoring in Sudan, Africa. A Verona priest, Ferrara had lived in Sudan and came to Cincinnati to pastor at the Holy Trinity Church, a church with a mostly African-American congregation. Ferrara told Farians that he opposed racial segregation of the Catholic Youth Organization teams and inspired her to reschedule and rearrange the girls' leagues so that they would be integrated. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series V, MEMORABILIA, 1968-2002, n.d. (#39.11m-40.3m, Mem.1-Mem.2), contains bumper stickers, buttons, and t-shirts collected by Farians and which contain sentiments and statements of protest that reflect Farians' political ideology and beliefs related to feminism, animal rights, and social justice. This series is arranged by format.

Series VI, AUDIOVISUAL, 1964-2013, n.d. (#CD-88.1-CD-88.3, DVD-115.1-DVD-115.2, T-515.1-T-515.36, Vt-276.1), contains audio reels and cassettes, compact discs, video discs and tape, mostly related to events, conferences, interviews, and programs that often feature speakers, including Farians, on feminist issues and women's role in the church, pacifism during the Vietnam war, capital punishment, or the animal rights movement. A large portion of this series contains audio of presentations from the public forum on Human Values and the Death Penalty organized by Farians and the Cincinnati Committee for Education on the Death Penalty in 1977 (#T-515.15-T-515.33). Also included is an interview with pacifist David Miller who was the first protester during the Vietnam war to burn his draft card in 1965 (#T-515.11), a presentation by Father Daniel Berrigan on non-violence and social justice (#T-515.9) and a personal interview with Farians a few years before her death (#DVD-115.1). This series is arranged by format and then by date.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Educator, theologian, eco-feminist, and social justice activist Elizabeth Farians was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1923, to Hilda Elizabeth and Charles Farians. Farians attended Catholic elementary school and Withrow High School, where she graduated in 1940. She attended the University of Cincinnati, where she received a Bachelor's degree in physical and health education (1943) and a Master's degree in education (1953). In 1958 Farians received her PhD in theology from Saint Mary's College Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.

Farians expressed concern about social injustice early in her life. While attending the University of Cincinnati in the 1940s, she developed a racially integrated physical education program for girls at Girls Town, a residential school and orphanage run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Believing that team sports would promote leadership skills for women, Farians taught physical education at Our Lady of Angels High School in St. Bernard, Ohio, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. In the 1940s she also worked at a small Catholic college, St. Mary of the Woods, in Terre Haute, Indiana, and worked in the Physical Education Department at Eastern Illinois State College. She then became director of a girls' and women's athletic program run by the Catholic Youth Organization of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for five years. In this job, Farians worked toward racially integrating the girls leagues of the program, after talking with her supervisor Father Dominic Ferrara, a priest who opposed the racial segregation of the teams.

When Farians learned that St. Mary's College Notre Dame had created the first doctoral program in theology for women, she enrolled. But after earning her PhD, Farians had difficulty finding permanent teaching positions in theology, which she attributed to her gender. She accepted temporary teaching jobs at Cardinal Cushing College, Boston, Massachusetts (1959-1960); Salve Regina College, Newport, Rhode Island (1960-1962); the University of Dayton, Dayton, Ohio (1962-1964); and Sacred Heart University, Bridgeport, Connecticut (1964-1967).

Farians applied for membership in the Catholic Theological Society but when she arrived at the society's annual meeting in 1966, she was initially denied entry due to being the only woman at this traditionally all-male gathering. In the early 1960s Farians joined the Catholic women's organization St. Joan's International Alliance. The alliance supported some feminist causes but, at the time, did not overtly criticize the patriarchal stance of the Catholic church. Farians wanted to be a part of an organization that was more far-reaching in its feminist principles, so in 1965 she started a new organization, the Ecumenical Task Force on Women and Religion. The Task Force was more critical of the church establishment, and its members included both Protestant women ministers and Catholic women. When the National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded in 1966, Farians joined the national board and brought the Task Force under NOW. In addition to her work on feminist causes, Farians was involved in the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement during the 1960s, participating in marches and other demonstrations, and becoming friends with the civil rights activist Reverend Maurice McCrackin and peace activist Father Daniel Berrigan.

In the late 1960s Farians lectured throughout the country about feminism and women's status in the church, and participated in protests and rallies. She started a NOW chapter in New Jersey; and would eventually start NOW chapters in Connecticut and Cincinnati. She convened the first meeting of NOW in Ohio in 1969. Farians also founded the Joint Committee of Organizations Concerned About the Status of Women in the Church, an umbrella group of which NOW's religious task force was a member.

In 1968 Farians was hired as an assistant professor to teach theology at Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois (1968-1971). At Loyola she also developed a women's studies course on feminism where she invited many lecturers to speak, including Betty Friedan, Kathryn Clarenbach, and Naomi Weisstein. After only a couple of years, Loyola terminated her position and Farians filed a complaint of sex discrimination with the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Organizations which supported her case included NOW's Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Education Association, and the American Association of College and University Professors. Years later, Farians received a small settlement from Loyola University.

Farians' outspokenness on issues of women's rights and the church continued into the 1970s. In 1970 Farians appeared on the Phil Donahue television program to discuss the topic of women and the priesthood. In 1971 she testified before the House and Senate on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment, contending that the ERA did not violate religious doctrine. In 1973 she was invited to give the Baccalaureate address at Brown University, becoming the first woman to speak from the pulpit in the Brown chapel. Farians was hired for one year to develop and direct a women's institute within the Boston Theological Institute, initially created by feminist theologian Mary Daly. Afterwards, she returned to Cincinnati, and developed another women's studies program which she presented to the University of Cincinnati. Her proposal, however, was rejected by the university. Farians continued to work on ERA ratification in Ohio and was a member of the National Women's Political Caucus, bringing together Ohio's politically active women to promote women as candidates for political office.

During the 1970s Farians interest in other social movements flourished. She began working with the Reverend Maurice McCrackin to contest the validity of the death penalty, and she founded the Cincinnati Chapter of the Ohio Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She continued her activities in the peace movement and became a vegetarian, and then a vegan in 1980. She co-founded the organization Feminists for Animal Rights, an organization dedicated to ending all forms of abuse against women and animals. She became actively involved in many animal rights organizations, protesting the abuse of animals including in factory farms, circuses, and animal testing for product development. She wrote about the importance of advocating for animal rights within the fabric of all social and political movements: "Besides hurting the animal, how we treat animals has an effect in the larger scheme of things. Our attitudes toward each other, the animals, the earth and indeed, to life itself are all interconnected."

In 2002 Farians approached Xavier University about creating a new theology course concerning religious doctrine and its role in both cruel and ethical treatment of animals. Just after reaching 80 years of age in 2003, Farians began teaching "Theology and Animals" at Xavier, a job which lasted until 2008.

In 1998 Farians received the Reverend Maurice McCrackin Peace and Justice Award for her work with social justice causes, including civil rights, the anti-war movement, and her efforts abolishing the death penalty. In 2006, long after she had renounced the Church, Farians was honored by the Catholic Theological Society of America for breaking down the society's gender barrier forty years earlier. In 2008 EarthSave Cincinnati honored Farians with a lifetime achievement award.

Farians died in October 2013 at the age of 90.


The collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and personal, 1931-2013 (#1.1-6.3, E.1-E.3, F+D.1-F+D.2)
  2. Series II. Teaching and related, 1942-2008 (#6.4-17.7, E.4-E.5)
  3. Series III. Organizations and activism, 1880-2013 (#17.8-39.10, E.6-E.10, FD.1, F+D.3-F+D.5, OD.1-OD.2)
  4. Series IV. Photographs, 1924-2013 (#PD.1-PD.6, E.11-E.12)
  5. Series V. Memorabilia, 1968-2002, n.d. (#39.11m-40.3m, Mem.1-Mem.2)
  6. Series VI. Audiovisual, 1964-2013, n.d. (CD-88.1-CD-88.3, DVD-115.1-DVD-115.2, T-515.1-T-515.36, Vt-276.1)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2015-M15

The papers of Elizabeth Farians were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Kay Riestenberg, daughter of Farians' cousin Barbara Limke.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Papers of NOW officer Elizabeth Farians, 1965-1973 (MC 480).


Donor: Mary Kay Riestenberg

Accession number: 2015-M15

Processed by: Laura Peimer

The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. A Center for Research and Information on the Status of Women Bulletin, Lucy Stone League (spring 1969; spring 1972)
  2. Adult Leadership (volume 18, number 1)
  3. Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences (volume 175, number 3)
  4. Background Facts on Women Workers in the United States, U.S. Department of Labor, 1968
  5. Background Facts on Women Workers in the United States, Women's Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor, 1970
  6. Bread & Roses, Kathy McAfee and Myrna Wood, ca.1969
  7. Brother (April 1971, number 1-Summer 1971, number 2)
  8. Christ and Women, Daniel A. Lord, S.J.
  9. Community (volume 1, number 2)
  10. Congressional Digest (January 1971)
  11. Continuing Education Programs and Services for Women, U.S. Department of Labor, 1968
  12. CWSS Newsletter (volume 1, number 7)
  13. Dark Testament: And Other Poems, Pauli Murray (signed by author)
  14. Employed Women and the Church, Cynthia Wedel, 1959
  15. Equal Rights: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 1970
  16. Equal Rights Amendment: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, United States Senate, 1970
  17. Equal Rights for Men and Women: Hearings Before Subcommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, 1971
  18. Feminine Focus (March 1966)
  19. Front Line (volume 2, number 3, winter 1964; volume 5, number 4, spring 1967)
  20. Green Paradise Lost by Elizabeth Dodson Gray, 1981
  21. Herald (volume 15, number 1, January 1972)
  22. How To Start Your Self-Help Clinic, Level II, West Coast Sisters, August 1971
  23. Interact (December 1969)
  24. Is the Church Woman's Enemy? Marriage and The "Newer Freedom" For Women, Reverend John O'Brien, 1956
  25. My Sister, Me, and Albert E., Sheila Mudd Baker, Margie F. Robertson, 1973
  26. Notes on Women's Liberation: We Speak In Many Voices, 1970
  27. Personal Care For People Who Care, The National Anti-Vivisection Society, 12th edition, 2005
  28. Progressive Woman (July 1972)
  29. Risk (volume 7, number 1, 1971)
  30. Sister's In Poverty Newsletter (volume 1, number 1)
  31. St. Anthony Messenger (March 1971)
  32. St. Joan's International Alliance United States Section Bulletin (March 1986-March/June 1990)
  33. SOS Art, Cincinnati, Ohio: exhibition catalogs (2003-2004, 2006-2011)
  34. Sweden Today: The Status of Women in Sweden, report to the United Nations, 1968
  35. The Alliance Link (1976)
  36. The American Family in Crisis, Marion Howell, 1965
  37. The Catholic Citizen Journal of St. Joan's International Alliance (1969-1971; 1984-1996)
  38. The 51% Minority, address by Representative Shirley Chisholm, Conference on Women's Employment, National Organization for Women, 1970
  39. The Great Speckled Bird (volume 1, number 36)
  40. The Liturgical Movement and the Catholic Woman
  41. The Ordination of Women, condensed by Raymond Tiemeyer, 1970
  42. The Origin of the Family, Friedrich Engels
  43. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory, Carol J. Adams, 1990
  44. The Task of Woman in the Modern World, Janet Kalven Grailville, 1947
  45. The Unitarian Universalist Christian (volume 27, number 3-4, autumn/winter 1972)
  46. The Woman in the Modern World, 1959
  47. Theology and Sexual Politics, An SCM Pamphlet
  48. Twelve Steps to Non-Sexist Masculinity: An Authoritative Drill Manual on How to be a Lover, Husband, and Father Without Fouling Up Women, Roslyn Rettew, 1973
  49. Weightlifting Provisions for Women by State, U.S. Department of Labor, June 1969
  50. What Has The Power...?, 1970
  51. [Wisconsin] Handbook for State and City Commissions on The Status of Women, 1968
  52. Wisconsin Women: The Third Major Report of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, 1969
  53. Woman-Soul Flowing: Words for Personal and Communal Reflection, Ecumenical Women's Center, 1978
  54. Women and Religion, proceedings of working group, American Academy of Religion, 1972
  55. Women and the Word: Toward a Whole Theology, 1972
  56. Women in Campus Ministry: A Report of Consultations with Catholic Women, 1973
  57. Women in Ministry: A Sister's View, 1972
  58. Women in Priesthood, ca.1976
  59. Women in the Church, Society for the Ministry of Women in the Church
  60. Women Today (volume 1, number 7-24, 1971; volume 2, number 1-11, 1972)

The following item has been transferred to the NOW Chapter Newsletter Collection (Pr-1):

  1. Cincinnati NOW News (volume 5, number 8)

Processing Information

Processed: February 2017

By: Laura Peimer, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Farians, Elizabeth. Papers of Elizabeth Farians, 1880-2013 (inclusive), 1942-2013 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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