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Green Voices of the Past: The Irish American Club and the Second Boer War

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

Presently, I am working through the Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, an organization dedicated to organizing and advocating for issues pertinent to the Irish republican cause. Emerging from the minute book are details about how the Irish American Club viewed the Second Boer War as an opportunity to protest British imperialism, through a pro-Boer stance. The discussions on the Second Boer War in the Minute Book of the Board of Officers of the Irish American Club offer an interesting insight as to how Irish Americans viewed British imperialism and attempted to act against it during the early twentieth century.

Lasting from October 11, 1899 to May 31, 1902, the Second Boer War was a conflict between the United Kingdom and the two independent Boer states, the Orange Free State and the South African Republic. Other names for the war include, the Boer War, the Anglo-Boer War, and the South-African War. However, the war erupted following the discovery of both gold and diamonds in the Boer states, and with the question of who would control the Witwatersrand gold mines. In the early phases of the war, Boer attacks proved successful against the British; however, after initial success British reinforcements reversed those successes. Despite this, the war continued for several years, as the Boer forces utilized guerilla warfare against the British. The guerilla warfare tactics of the Boer states were counteracted with a scorched earth policy on the part of the British that brought the war to an end. With the Treaty of Vereeniging, which was signed on May 31, 1902, the Second Boer War came to an end. As a result, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State were no longer independent republics and were incorporated into the British empire.

Initially in the minute book, the Second Boer War appears as a way to support a war against British imperialism. As the months went by in the meeting book, “pro-Boer sentiment and meetings continued to occur, and culminated on page 184 when the organization discussed whether or not take action to protest the war. The organization expressed this by questioning “the advisability of District 12 taking action along the lines suggested by Mr. Van Ness of New York, protesting against the sale of horses to the British Government for us in South Africa against the Boer Republic.”

Further, the organization took great pride in a visit from Major John MacBride, spelled in the minute book as “McBride.” For, it is stated in the minute book on pages 186 and 187, “the object of the meeting was to make arrangements for a reception to Major McBride of the Transvaal Irish Brigade, who had done more to uphold the name of the Irish race than any other man during the past century.” John MacBride was an Irish leader and supporter of the Irish Republican movements. Moreover, MacBride was instrumental to Irish involvement in the Second Boer War, as he was responsible for the organization of the Transvaal Irish Brigade. The Transvaal Irish Brigade, also known as the Irish Transvaal Brigade, or the “Wreckers Corps,” consisted of Irish and Irish-American miners who lived in Transvaal and were willing to fight against the British forces in the Second Boer War. Furthermore, the Transvaal Irish Brigade operated from September 1899 to September 1900, and participated in approximately twenty engagements. In those twenty engagements, eighteen men were killed and seventy were wounded.

Page 187

As a whole, the discussion of the Second Boer War by the Irish American Clubs gives valuable insight as to how Irish Americans viewed Britain’s imperial wars as another means to work against the British, and aid in the overthrow of British rule in other parts of the world. Inherently it can be sensed from this that the Irish Americans viewed it as their duty to not only support British independence, but also the independence of nations also in the British empire.


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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Green Voices of the Past: The Commemoration of Armed Insurrections in the Irish American Club

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

The Irish American Club was a club dedicated to organizing and advocating for issues pertinent to the Irish republican cause. Throughout Minute Book of the Board of Officers for the Irish American Club, one of the most prominent examples of their advocacy and work was through their commemorative celebrations held in remembrance of some of the failed Irish republican uprisings, as well as important figures in Irish republicanism.

One of the first instances of commemorating armed insurrections that appeared in manuscript, was with the mention of a committee on an Emmet celebration on page eight of the manuscript [1]. This celebration was to commemorate the death of the leader of Irish Rebellion of 1803, Robert Emmet. Emmet was born on September 08, 1771, and was the eleventh child of Dr. Robert Emmet and Elizabeth Emmet (née Mason) [2]. Emmet prior to the insurrection was deeply involved in the Society of United Irishmen, which was formed following the French Revolution, and later evolved to advocate to secure a representative government in Ireland. Emmet, initiated the Irish Rebellion on July 23, 1803, and did so in the hope of overthrowing British rule in Ireland and implementing a representative government [4]. The rebellion failed, and on September 20, 1803 Emmet was put to death for his role in the rebellion [5]. On page 68 of the minute book, it becomes clear that the men in the Irish American Club felt a deep commitment to making sure that the celebration in commemoration of Emmet was successful. For example, on page 68 a man identified as “Br Thompson” is described as having “urged the brothers to try and make the coming Emmet celebration a great success”[6]. Further punctuating this was a description of a statement made by a man referred to as “Br Dillon,” who “said that we ought to try and make the Emmet celebration the greatest success we ever had on account on the present situation in Europe”[7]. From these brief mentions of the planning of the Emmet celebration, one gains the sense that the Emmet celebration was of great importance to the men of the Irish American Club. As an important Irish republican figure, the Emmet celebration was brought up yearly in the minute book, and was one of the club’s annual celebrations.

Image showing quote about Emmet celebration

Also commemorated frequently by the Irish American Club, was the 1798 Rebellion. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was born in the era of the French Revolution.[8] Revolutionary fervor sweeping through France, gave inspiration to Irish republican and Irish nationalist organizers, and this resulted in the reorganization of groups such as the Volunteers, and the creation of the United Irishmen [9]. In early 1798 the United Irishmen made the decision to instigate a domestic uprising, and this rebellion is considered by scholars to have decisively changed Irish society [10]. Primarily, the purpose of the 1798 Rebellion was to overthrow British rule in Ireland. During the rebellion, the rebels had success in County Wexford, in Ireland; however, when the rebels attempted to carry the rebellion to the northern and western regions of Ireland, they failed [11]. It was on June 21, 1798, at Vinegar Hill, where the rebel forces were effectively defeated [12]. From the way that the Irish American Club spoke of the 1798 Rebellion, referred to in the manuscript as “the events of 98,” one gains a sense of the importance of the event to the Irish American community in the late nineteenth century [13]. For example, on page 98, when debating on the plans for the commemorative celebration of the 1798 Rebellion it was recorded by the secretary, that the “Bros Carney and Redmond” had carried out a long debate as to “the most suitable way to celebrate the memory of the men and the events of 98” [14]. Furthermore, the importance of the rebellion and commemorating it, for the club is clear in the language utilized in the minute book, with the words “most suitable” it is clear the men were putting considerable thought into the celebration. Further, according to page 104 of the manuscript, there was considerable anticipation for the commemorative celebration, as it is put forth “Bro MacMahon reported from the committee on the 98 celebration, stating that the prospects for a very impressive demonstration were bright, as all persons who were enthusiastic” [15].

Image showing quote about the 1798 Rebellion

From the commemoration of these two uprisings, one gains the sense of the dedication and the inspiration that the men of the Irish American Club drew from the armed uprisings in Ireland’s history. Moreover, this minute book amplifies the voices of the men who partook in the commemoration of events and a cause they were deeply committed to.

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Bibliography

Curtin, Nancy J. “The Transformation of the Society of United Irishmen into a Mass-Based Revolutionary Organization, 1794-6.” Irish Historical Studies 24, no. 96 (1985): 463-492.

Geoghegan, Patrick M. Robert Emmet: A Life. Cornwall, United Kingdom: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

Minute book. Board of Officers Irish American Club. Meeting Minutes. January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library. Accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888.

Patterson, James G. In the Wake of The Great Rebellion: Republicanism, Agrarianism and Banditry in Ireland after 1798. Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press, 2008.

Séaghdha, Tomás Ó. “Robert Emmet and the Insurrection of 1803.” The Past: The Organ of the Uí Cinsealaigh Historical Society, no. 22 (2000): 51-66.

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Notes

[1] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 8.

[2] Patrick M. Geoghegan, Robert Emmet: A Life. (Cornwall, England: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002), 51.

[3] Nancy J. Curtin, “The Transformation of the Society of United Irishmen into a Mass-Based Revolutionary Organization, 1794-6,” Irish Historical Studies 24, no. 96 (1985): 463.

[4] Geoghegan, Robert Emmet: A Life, 155-164.

[5] Tomás Ó Séaghdha, “Robert Emmet and the Insurrection of 1803,” The Past: The Organ of the Uí Cinsealaigh Historical Society, no. 22 (2000): 64.

[6] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 68.

[7] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888., 68.

[8] James G. Patterson, In the Wake of The Great Rebellion: Republicanism, Agrarianism and Banditry in Ireland after 1798 (Manchester, United Kingdom: Manchester University Press, 2008), 1.

[9] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 1.

[10] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[11] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[12] Patterson, In the Wake of the Great Rebellion, 3.

[13] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 98.

[14] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 98.

[15] Minute book, Board of Officers, Irish American Club, Meeting Minutes, January 19, 1896. Villanova University Digital Library, accessed September 15, 2021. https://digital.library.villanova.edu/Item/vudl:572888, 104.

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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Green Voice of the Past: Women in the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

Often underrepresented in the historical record, women’s voices and experiences offer an important lens through which to view history and the events of the past. While clearly present, and participating throughout historical events of the past, often women’s voices were not as often acknowledged or given the same attention as that of men. Emerging from the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom’s Minute Book are the voices of many women who stridently organized and participated in the movement for Irish Independence during the early twentieth century. Founded during the third Irish Race Convention, held from March 04, 1916 to March 05, 1916, the Friends of Irish Freedom was founded with the aims of both supporting and assisting in the movement for Irish independence.

Title Page of Minute Book

To an extent, the participation of women in the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom was unusual, as women were not often invited or accepted into these types of organizations with men during this time period. Despite this, the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom, according to their minute book, were honored to welcome women into their branch of the organization. This is evident on page thirty of the manuscript where it is stated, “a goodly member of Irish ladies attended the meeting and it is hoped they will continue their visits, and invite others to do the same, as we recognize the fact that from the women of Limerick all the way down the line…women have played a noble part in Irelands fight for Independence.” With word choices such as “noble,” and “goodly” when describing the woman who attended the meeting, one garners the sense that the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom were pleased to have welcomed the woman to their meeting. Furthermore, the secretary directly noted that the organization hoped they would continue to attend and bring more women into the branch.

Page with Nolan Quote

Denoting this openness to women’s involvement in the organization was the way that women were supported throughout the manuscript in not only voicing their opinions on Irish independence, but also in participating and running for elected positions within the branch, as well as taking part in committees. The voice of Mary Nolan emerges strongly from the manuscript, wherein she consistently participated in discussion, was appointed to various important committees, and was elected as Chancellor and later Chairlady of the Ball Committee. From reading the manuscript, one gains the sense that Nolan was well-respected within the branch, along with the other women who joined the branch. Women were referred to as “Sister” and men were referred to as “Brother.” Moreover, the way Nolan was written about further demonstrates the respect that she received from the organization. For example, the secretary wrote on page 33, “Sister Nolan (new member) spoke eloquently on her American birth.” The use of “eloquent” demonstrates that the secretary respected what Nolan had to say, and acknowledged the persuasiveness and clarity of her speech. Also evident from the manuscript, was the dedication that women in the organization felt towards the cause of Irish independence. Nolan, is recorded in the manuscript on page 33 as having conveyed that “she loved that dear land Ireland, that she had never yet seen, but which prayed to see, but not until England was driven from its stock and barrell [sic]. She knew God was a good God, but she believed he would be a sleepy God if he allowed England to come out victorious.” From the passionate wording of Nolan, and the respect with which her oration was recorded, it is evident that women contributed and voiced their beliefs freely within the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom.

Nolan was not the only woman to emerge from the pages of the minute book from the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom. Women such as Margaret Kain, Marie Seary, Annie Doyle, Mary O’Hagan, and many others also appear in the text. With each appearance one sees these women being accepted and actively participating in committees and elections within the organization, and actively contributing to the cause for Irish independence.
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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Green Voices of the Past: Revisiting Mary Linehan’s Poetry Commonplace Book

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

Poetry commonplace books can be gateways to understanding not only individuals, but also, they can inform on what popular literature was consumed during a specific time period. Mary Linehan’s Poetry Commonplace Book, held by Villanova’s Distinctive Collections, is an example of such a manuscript.

Photograph of Linehan’s Lament of Mary Queen of Scots

While giving a glimpse into the life of Linehan, Linehan’s commonplace book also gives the reader an understanding of what literature was being consumed by Americans in the late 19th century. Linehan’s 19th century commonplace book is filled with numerous poems, and many of which are from an array of American, Scottish, and Irish poets. Temporally, the poetry found in Linehan’s manuscript ranges from the late 16th century all the way to the 19th century. This is significant as it points to the reach of the different types of literature that Irish Americans were being exposed to in the 19th century. From Thomas Moore to a 16th century earl, Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon, this commonplace books brings features a wide array of poets and poetry styles. Furthermore, the poetry book also features a poem by Robert Burns. Burns was a Scottish poet and lyricist, and his poem “Lament of Mary Queen of Scots,” is one of the poems that Linehan copied into her commonplace book. Burns was well-known for his poetry being in the Scottish dialect, and Burns is known as the pioneer of the Romantic movement. The poem, “Lament of Mary Queen of Scots,” is from the perspective of Mary Queen of Scots, and details the events of her life and her agony of not seeing her son grow up. This poem fits in with the overall theme of loss and sadness that is laden throughout Linehan’s commonplace book. Moreover, the variations in the text from Linehan’s handwritten copied version of the poem to Burns’s original poem is also interesting to note. This is through the way Linehan omitted much of Burns’s Scottish dialect, and opted to substitute the traditional English spelling of the words. However, Linehan did at times maintain the Scottish dialect in the poem and it is hard to discern a pattern in how she chose to keep the Scottish dialect or omit it.

Photograph of Linehan’s biorgraphical information on page 44

This manuscript also allows a deeper understanding of an Irish-American woman during the 19th century. According to the manuscript, as well as state records, Linehan was born in Cork, Ireland c. 1851 to Michael and Catherine Linehan. When Linehan moved to Georgia in the late 19th century, she met her husband John Ring, and on September 27, 1875 Ring and Linehan married. Almost a year after their marriage, both Ring and Linehan died. Ring died on September 04, 1876, and Linehan died September 21, 1876. These events are chronicled by a family member in Linehan’s commonplace book, presumably by a relative, as the page detailing this is marked “J.M. Linehan.” After Linehan’s death, J.M. Linehan, who recorded Mary and her husband’s death in the manuscript, began to record poetry in the book as well. Both selections of poetry made by Mary Linehan and J.M. Linehan, are all seemingly concerned with fidelity, infidelity, and loss. This is important to note, as these themes defined the types of poetry found in the book, and seemingly one could infer that these poems were chosen because of their likeness in theme to one another.

As a whole, Linehan’s poetry commonplace book offers a glimpse into the literature one Irish-American woman was consuming during the 19th century; however, it also offers a deeper understanding as to the types of literature being consumed by the broader 19th century American public.

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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Green Voices of the Past: The Friends of Irish Freedom and World War I

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

World War I erupted into an international conflict on July 28, 1914, and the conflict held a multitude of implications for people around the world. A lesser amplified voice in historical studies on the conflict, is that of Irish Americans.

Presently, I am working through the Minute Book of the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom. The Friends of Irish Freedom was an Irish-American organization founded during the third Irish Race Convention, held from March 04, 1916 to March 05, 1916. Further, the organization held the aims of supporting and assisting in the movement for Irish independence. Voices of men and women fighting for Irish independence fill this manuscript, and throughout the work their political and cultural beliefs come to light through the descriptions of their bi-monthly meetings. World War I, emerges in the minute book for this organization, as a highly contentious conflict that held implications of imminent importance for the movement for Irish independence.

Friends of Irish Freedom Opposed to the War

Conscription is directly confronted by the members of the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom, wherein, members are described as making patriotic speeches for Irish-American resistance to the war, specifically through resisting the draft. While these men and women felt a deep dedication to the United States, they also expressed patriotism to Ireland, where they were all steadfast in their dedication to the cause of Irish freedom. Because of this, they negatively viewed the war because of its inherent connection to England. This is most evident through the voice of Father Collins, who gave a speech appealing “to all members of the F.O.I.F. to stand by all young Irishmen who refused to be drafted” (p. 43). These feelings of animosity, amongst the members of this branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom, towards the war, seemingly were stemmed from World War I’s association with England. This sentiment is best summed up on page 29 in the minute book, when a visitor to the meeting, a “Mr Jos McGarrity,” this most likely being Joseph McGarrity, is described as stating “he wanted to know why we Americans should be in the war at all as this surely was Englands war and England only Sung by a lady guest” (p. 29) These statements that are described as being from McGarrity in the text are interesting, as they represent the enmity many Irish-Americans felt towards England.

p. 70, Minute Book, Friends of Irish Freedom,

The Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom did seem to think World War I could have positive implications for the cause of Irish Independence, as they believed President Woodrow Wilson’s article five of his “Fourteen Points,” made a case for Irish independence. Father Mahoney’s voice is amplified in the minutes from a meeting of the organization, on November 17, 1918, where the minutes state Father Mahoney “made an elocuent [sic] address on Irish Independence…He outlined President Wilson’s declaration regarding the rights of small nations, and stated that Ireland should have delegates at the Peace Conference” (p. 68). Father Mahoney’s speech illuminates the hopes that Irish-Americans felt that the Paris Peace Conference would mark a monumental shift in the fight for Irish independence, and shows how Irish-Americans utilized not only cultural, but also political means to make moves towards the cause of an independent Ireland.

Through reading the Minute Book of the Patrick H. Pearse Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom, one not only garners a deeper understanding of the commitment of Irish-Americans to aiding the cause of Irish independence, one also learns the names behind those taking part in the movement. This minute book amplifies the voices of Irish-Americans participating in a movement they were deeply committed to.

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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Green Voices of the Past: A Trip through Ireland with Joseph McGarrity

Posted for: Emily Poteat.

Throughout my work thus far, one of the strongest and decisive voices I have encountered is that of Joseph McGarrity. McGarrity was an Irish-American political activist who is best known for his support for the Irish Republican cause of Irish independence, and his involvement as well as leadership in Clan-na-Gael in the United States. Clan-na-Gael was a successor organization to the Fenian Brotherhood, and an Irish Republican organization in the United States that operated from the 19th century into the 20th century.

Photograph of Travel Diary

McGarrity’s eloquent writing style was one I had previously encountered through his communications in letters; however, one gains a deeper sense of his thought process and beliefs when engaging with his travel diary from his 1925 trip to Ireland. From McGarrity’s reminisces of episodes of Irish resistance to English rule throughout Ireland’s history, to describing the condition of Irish castles and Irish towns, one achieves an understanding of how deeply committed to Ireland and his Irish heritage McGarrity genuinely was. Punctuating this is the way McGarrity described the Irish people he encountered; for, in one entry McGarrity explained, “it is really the poorest part of Ireland I have yet seen the redeeming feature was th [sic] people” (McGarrity pg. 41). What made McGarrity appreciate the people so much, as he explained in the text, was the way they spoke to him in the Irish language, Gaelic. McGarrity, as seen throughout his previous letters, and even more so in this travel diary, was devoted to the survival and continuance of Irish culture and heritage; moreover, McGarrity saw the passing along Irish traditions such as Gaelic and Irish dancing and music to the next generation as an inherently patriotic act.

Photograph of Joseph McGarrity from Villanova Collection

Most exciting in McGarrity’s travel diary thus far, has been the way he describes events in Irish history. One encounters his renditions of Ireland’s history with Oliver Cromwell in the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland, Henry II and his dealing with Dermot MacMurrough over his seat at Leinster, and the War of the Roses and the dispute between the Jacobites and Williamites. However, most personal to McGarrity seems to be his descriptions of the struggle for Irish Independence. McGarrity, so far, seems to have shaped his trip’s itinerary around visiting Irish locations deeply connecting to Irish Republicanism. This seems to be the case, as McGarrity describes frequently locations connected to the Irish Confederate Wars, the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War.

Through tracing McGarrity’s steps across Ireland one not only understands McGarrity’s commitment to Irish heritage, one also gains a sense of McGarrity’s own understandings of the events that led to Irish independence. I look forward to transcribing more of McGarrity’s travel diary, and learning more about his own beliefs and his travels through Ireland.

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Emily Poteat is a graduate assistant in Irish Studies and Falvey Memorial Library’s Distinctive Collections and Digital Engagement Department, and a graduate student in the History Department.


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Last Modified: July 7, 2021