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DanubeWomenStories_en

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Gertrud von Hohenberg

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Queen Anne of Habsburg

Codex Manesse –  Count Albert II of Hohenberg
Codex Manesse – Count Albert II of Hohenberg
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It was the beginning of a seven-century-long Habsburg reign, an empire, in which, at times, the sun never set.

Who was this woman who is also considered the progenitor of Maria Theresa?
For the most part, it was men who dominated the history of the Habsburg dynasty. But without Gertrud von Hohenberg, the power of the royal family would be unthinkable. It all began in 1253/54 when she married her neighbour, Rudolf of Habsburg. The latter could neither read nor write, he was only interested in riding and taking part in tournaments.

In his absence, Gertrud von Hohenberg advanced to become a skilful manager: she supervised his estates, controlled the peasants, settled disputes in the family and pulled the strings in the background with skill and diligence.
Codex Manesse –  Count Albert II of Hohenberg
Codex Manesse – Count Albert II of Hohenberg
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Skilled monarch

Gravestone of Gertrud (Anna) von Hohenberg in Basel Cathedral
Gravestone of Gertrud (Anna) von Hohenberg in Basel Cathedral
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In 1273, Rudolf was the first scion of the House of Habsburg to receive the crown of the Roman-German Empire - and Gertrud henceforth called herself Anna von Habsburg. She knew exactly how to expand and consolidate her influence and power by providing numerous descendants. She gave birth to eleven children, nine of whom reached adulthood. It was the beginning of the Habsburg rule, which, through marriage policy, inheritance contracts and negotiating skills, ruled for seven centuries over an empire that stretched from Europe to across the Atlantic.

Throughout her life, Gertrud von Hohenberg was a respected queen. She died in Vienna at the age of almost 50. Her wish was to be buried in Basel. She even skilfully used her death to further the interests of the monarchy - for it is thought that by doing so she wished to win Basel for her husband and award it to the empire.

Picture above: Anchor clock in Vienna
Gravestone of Gertrud (Anna) von Hohenberg in Basel Cathedral
Gravestone of Gertrud (Anna) von Hohenberg in Basel Cathedral
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Sophie Scholl

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Execution by guillotine was the verdict on 22 February 1943.
Sophie Scholl remained silent, resigned to her fate. She left without batting an eyelid. He had never seen anyone die like that, the executioner said at the end.

For Sophie Scholl it was a "matter of morals and politics, of thinking and acting". A sympathiser of the Nazi regime, an uncompromising resistance fighter: Who was Sophia Magdalena Scholl really?
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She loved to sing and dance, she read a lot and loved nature. She led a normal life. Then the Nazis came - and Sophie's world was shaken. She joined the Nazi youth organisation, had a relationship with a professional soldier and initially supported the regime. But then doubts arose.

When her father was arrested for statements critical of the regime and her boyfriend reported on the misery and crimes on the Eastern Front, her anger grew. From then on, the fight for freedom determined her life - and her death.
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"Stop! You are under arrest!" the caretaker of Munich University shouted. It was around 11:15 a.m. - on a cold February day. The siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl had already distributed 1700 leaflets when Sophie knocked a stack - intentionally or accidentally - off the gallery. Like doves of peace, the leaflets fluttered down into the atrium of the university. That precisely was her undoing.

Four days later, on 22 February, three members of the "White Rose" were sentenced to death. Sophie Scholl was the first to go - brave, determined, upright.
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Sophie Scholl is and remains a champion against the Nazi regime, against the atrocities, mass murders and crimes committed in the years from 1933 to 1945. Her courage and determination, her fearlessness and her strong will marked her to the point of death.

She developed these qualities at an early age: she grew up in a parental home where she was taught Christian and also liberal values.

We visit the former home of the Scholl family in Olgastraße in Ulm.
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Iris Mann

Iris Mann, Cultural Mayor of Ulm, talks about Sophie Scholl

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What do you like about the Danube Women Stories project? Which historical woman in the book would you have liked to meet personally?

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Iris Mann, Mayor of Culture in Ulm, talks about Europe

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Culture along the Danube - the cities of Ulm and Neu-Ulm have been committed to Europe for many years with the International Danube Festival? Why is this so important?

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Luise Händlmaier

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She was an energetic woman, one who was not afraid of work and who had a plan - to continue her parents-in-law's butcher's shop and mustard production.
In 1949, her husband Joseph Händlmaier took over the business in the second generation. He died only six years later.

Luise was left to fend for herself. Her determination and efficiency made her one of the most successful businesswomen in Bavaria.
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Public buildings, middle-class residential housing, craftsmen's workshops – the old town of Regensburg is the only fully preserved medieval city. It was here in Gesandtenstraße that the successful history of the Händlmaier family began in 1910. At first, they opened their own butcher's shop.

But the owner Johanna Händlmaier wanted to offer her guests something very special to go with the homemade sausages: That is how in 1914, the "sweet Hausmacher mustard" was invented, laying the foundation of the company.

What follows is a tasty story.

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Even if some Händlmaier fans think of mustard as a Bavarian invention, researchers have found out that it was already used as a spice in China 3000 years ago. Mustard came to Europe in the 4th century BC and was deified by the Romans. Pope John XXII even appointed his nephew the "Grand moutardier du pape" - the "Great Papal Mustard Keeper".

Even the ancient Greeks knew how of the health effects of the small grains, which stimulate the flow of saliva and aid digestion.
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Regina Hellwig-Schmid

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Regina Hellwig Schmid talks about Artists in Residence in Regensburg

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Katharina Kepler

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It was she who instilled in him the world of science, an interest in numbers and in natural phenomena. It was she who showed him the strength and joy that can come from research.

Katharina Kepler: the mother of the famous physicist, astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler.
Furthermore - Katharina Kepler was also a witch.

Or was she not?
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Katharina Kepler is born in the middle of the 16th century.

It is a turbulent time: religious wars, a plague epidemic, bad harvests. But it is also the time when new insights into the world are gained. Rationality begins to prevail, diseases are not seen as a curse, people begin to research causes.

But the resistance of a large part of the population to the new and unknown is great.
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Katharina Kepler is described as a headstrong person, as someone who is not easy to see through. Even more: she is accused of witchcraft. Allegedly, she administered a magic potion to her neighbour.

Witchcraft was treated as a criminal offence at that time. Article 109 of the "Constitutio Criminalis Carolina" stipulates that "harmful sorcery shall be punished by death by fire". This is also what awaits the mother of the scientist Kepler.

Forgotten in the past, Katharina Kepler is being rediscovered in the present and celebrated as a woman who was ahead of her time, as here in a performance at the Stadttheater in Pforzheim.

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Katharina's son Johannes was already living as a recognised astronomer in Linz at this time and brought his mother to live with him. However, she wanted to return to Württemberg. When she was put on trial, he also returned home and prepared his mother's defence. Katharina spent 14 months in prison.

This time takes its toll on her health, but she insists on her innocence - even though she is shown the instruments of torture as a threat. In the end, she is acquitted, also thanks to the efforts of her son.

Six months later, the then 76-year-old Katharina dies.
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Anna Maria Brandstätter

Anna Maria Brandstätter talks about her artwork

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Anna Maria Brandstätter: "Art should more interfere in politics".

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Hedy Lamarr

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"Any girl can look glamorous: all she has to do is stand still and look stupid."

Hedy Lamarr knew what she was talking about. As a successful actress, the Austrian-born actress played the pretty, irresistible woman in many roles. But she wanted more than just to look lovely. She wanted to leave something behind and she did - as a scientist and inventor.
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Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna on 9 November 1914, the daughter of a Jewish bank director and a concert pianist. Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, her real name, attended a public school and received piano, ballet and language lessons.

She came into contact with the film business at an early age. Her breakthrough came in the 1930s. She became famous for her role in the film "Ecstasy" (1933). One scene from this film is considered the first nude scene in cinema history.

In it, the then 19-year-old suggests an orgasm, which led to much outrage and numerous complaints, including from the Vatican.
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Austria became too small for her, her marriage a burden. Hedy Lamarr divorced and went to the USA in 1938 to further her film career.

She found more than glamour and glitter there - she found a breeding ground for her inventive spirit.

Together with the composer George Antheil, the actress wanted to support the USA in the fight against the Hitler regime during the Second World War. Both were passionate opponents of National Socialism.
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Hedy Lamarr and the musician George Antheil invented a radio remote control for torpedoes. To do this, they used the principle of synchronously running punch cards, as used in automatic pianos.

They made their invention available to the US military. Although the invention had already been patented in 1942, it received little attention for decades. It was only much later that Hedy Lamarr's idea became the basis for WLAN or Bluetooth, today's modern transmission technology.

Today, she is referred to by many as "Lady Bluetooth", as a pioneer of digitalisation. In 2014, she was inducted into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Hedy Lamarr did not live to see the award: she died on 19 January 2000 in Florida.
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Martina Reiter Musikerin

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Erzebet Gaal

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Everyone in Hungary knows the Statue of Liberty with the outstretched arms and the palm leaf in her hands. Tourists like to have their pictures taken in front of the female figure on Gellert Hill in Budapest.

But only a few know the story of the woman who was the model for the statue. Her name is Erzsébet Gaál.
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One day in October, Erzsébet Gaál, then 28 years old, was waiting at a tram stop.

To the famous Hungarian artist Zsigmond Kisfaludi Strobl, the young woman seemed the perfect model for his project - a Statue of Liberty for Budapest. He had previously eyed several actresses and also dancers from Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre, but he found the unknown Hungarian girl most suitable as a model for the statue that was to represent the new Hungary.

Erzsébet Gaál agreed and so she became the living model for one of the most famous monuments of the Hungarian capital.
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Little is known about her past, only that Erzsébet Gaál worked as a nurse and came from a small village. She received no payment for her work, and she was not invited to the opening of the monument. In the period before 1989, schools and cultural institutions were named after her, and pupils wanted to take photos with her.

But the person Erzsébet Gaál quickly fell into oblivion - and into financial difficulties. She died lonely and abandoned in a place outside of Budapest.
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Construction of the Statue of Liberty in Budapest

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Szilvia Szenasi

Szilvia Szénási, head of the Uccu Foundation, is engaged for to Roma youth.

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Liljana Gehrecke

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Vukovar was almost completely destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence. For months, Serbian militias besieged the border town, thousands of people died, houses and infrastructure were razed to the ground.

The region remained under Serbian occupation until 1998.
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Croats, Serbs, Hungarians, Danube Swabians and many more: 27 ethnic groups lived peacefully together until the war came.

Vukovar, once an important textile and industrial centre, looks desolate and abandoned. Unemployment is growing, the young are leaving, the ruins remain - and so do the memories of the 1990s. All this makes it difficult to live together.

Divided schools, divided cafés, divided lives. In the meantime, Vukovar has become a politically cultivated memorial to the Croatian war of independence, a national myth. The trauma of the war still runs deep.

But there are rays of hope.
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On 9 May 2000, 15 people came together in Vukovar.
Many things made them different: religion, past experiences, ethnicity, education.

But they all had one goal: to found a place where reconciliation could take place. Thus, the Europahaus was founded - for a long time after the end of the war the only meeting place in the city where Serbs and Croats could come together.
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She was the driving force behind the peace project "Europahaus Vukovar": Ljiljana Gehrecke. "Peace is the most important thing for people. Without peace, a common future cannot work," she said in a speech in 2012. Peace was there, but the borders in the mind, the invisible dividing lines are still noticeable.

Gehrecke, the bridge builder, had dedicated herself to one cause: Reconciliation and solidarity, especially among the upcoming generation.

She worked for this ideal until her death in 2015.

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"Our history teachers at school rarely mentioned the war. There were a few pages about it in the textbook, but usually this material is dealt with at the end of the school year, when the students are not that interested in going to school and learning anymore, but it also depends on the teacher, of course. Nowadays, people in Vukovar are focused on current problems such as Corona and new developments within the society. Yes, there are days when people remember the war, especially on 18 November, and the older people, who lived through that time or lost a loved one to the war, talk about it more often and it is more difficult for them.

Personally, I don't talk about the war. I listen to the stories on 18 November, I respect everyone, Croats and Serbs, but I have less contact with Serbs because we have almost two different strata of society in primary and secondary schools, there is the Croatian group and the Serbian group, and even in kindergarten the children are separated according to their social affiliation, so we hardly have the chance to get to know each other better either. If I didn't have this (Serbian) friend in the neighbourhood, I probably wouldn't have a single Serbian friend to this day."
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"As far as inter-ethnic coexistence is concerned, I find this narrative interesting. That's how much this story has been deformed and made into a parody. Vukovar as a city would not exist without internationality. Throughout its history, Vukovar was a multi-ethnic city, it was even a German city at times, populated by Serbs and Russians. There was even an Albanian minority.

Even if you are a nationalist, you cannot ignore the multinationality of Vukovar. People of different origins, different ethnicities live here, and I am very proud that I come from this city and that I am part of this “palette”, that I belong to the Serb minority.

My parents were born here and I am a full member of this Vukovar history. I also believe that most people here are proud of it. When they go to city festivals, they see 20 different stands from 20 different cultures, they see Latin and Cyrillic script, they hear Ukrainian, Hungarian and German. All of them have the right to live here in Vukoar. That's great, because it's rare to see a European city with so much cultural diversity."
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Mirela Hutinec

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Mileva Maric

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She was enthusiastic about the natural sciences even as a small child and remained true to this passion throughout her life.

Mileva Marić was one of the first women to enrol to study mathematics and physics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1896. A multitude of myths still surround her contribution to the theory of relativity.

For a long time, her role in the early writings of her husband Albert Einstein was ignored.
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Mileva Marić was born in 1875 in Titel, a small town in Vojvodina in what was then Austria-Hungary.

She is an eager student and her father discovers and encourages her talent for scientific subjects early on.

She attends good schools, including the Royal Grammar School for Boys in Zagreb. Girls were only allowed to attend primary schools at that time, and she was the only girl to receive special permission.

Mileva Marić family home in Novi Sad.
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In her early 20s, she moves to Switzerland to study at the Technical University in Zurich, as women are not allowed to study in her country. Marić was the only woman of her year and only the fifth woman ever to succeed in gaining admission to study at this university.

There she immerses herself in the world of natural sciences, discovers like-minded people - and the love of her life, which, however, would prove to be her doom.
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He is 17, she is 20: Mileva and Albert studied, calculated and discussed together for days and nights. Their relationship is modern and equal for the time. Their shared love of physics turns into a love for each other. Despite enormous resistance, they marry. Mileva bears three children, but happiness seems to slip from her fingers.

"One gets the pearls, the other the box," she writes to a friend in 1909. It is the time when Mr. and Mrs. Einstein become more and more distanced.

While Albert makes a career, Mileva is more and more involved at home.
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"You see to it that my clothes and linen are kept in good condition, that I have the three meals properly served in my room, that my bedroom and study are always kept in good order, and especially that the desk is at my disposal alone." This is what Albert Einstein wrote to his wife on 18 July 1914. A modern, progressive relationship of equals had turned into a dependent, patriarchal marriage.

Mileva soon decides to leave her husband in Bern and returns to Zurich with her two sons. In 1918, they were divorced.

The pioneer, natural scientist and mother died in 1948 lonely and isolated in a clinic in Zurich.
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Svetlana Moijc

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Hildegardis Wulff

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A life between Germany and Romania, between care and self-sacrifice, between faith in God and godless communists.

A life full of exclusion, deprivation and persecution.
Who was Sister Hildegardis?

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When two of Sister Hildegardis' students invite her to Timisoara in 1927, no one suspects how much her life will become entangled with this land. As co-founder of the women's order of the Benedictine Sisters of St. Lioba, she travels through the Banat and gives lectures on education, customs, literature and questions of everyday life.

In 1934 she is even granted Romanian citizenship and allowed to found a priory in Timisoara. She also founds kindergartens, youth centres and dormitories.

At the end of the 1930s, the political upheavals not only endanger her charitable work, her life is also at stake.
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When Romania joins Nazi Germany, she openly opposes this - and thus attracts the attention of the NSDAP.

Even after the end of the war, she finds no peace in what is then communist Romania: From 1944, the church and convents are suppressed and the nuns from Germany are interned. They are released again in December 1945, but their work is severely restricted by the state authorities.

Four years later, all orders are banned altogether.
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Claudiu Calin in the diocese of Timisoara speaks about Sister Hildegardis

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The 1950s were the most difficult years in the life of the nun Hildegardis.

On 18 August 1950, she was arrested again and first spent one and a half years in pre-trial detention. After that, she was sentenced to 25 years in prison. She spent a total of nine years in various Romanian prisons.

Then, in 1959, came the liberation: on the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, several nuns were exchanged for the release of Romanian agents.

Sister Hildergardis returned to the main monastery of St. Lioba in Freiburg, where she died on 20 October 1961.

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Andreea Kremm

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Andreea Kremm with her extraordinary hobby as a pilot

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Maria Theresia

With a simple "Au revoir. God bless you!" Maria Theresa sends her then 14-year-old daughter Marie Antoinette to Paris. She is to marry the future King Louis XVI.

A strategic move by Maria Theresa, with which she succeeds in turning the arch-enemy France into an ally. With this skillful marriage policy, the mother of 16 children manages to establish relationships with half of Europe.

The "First Lady of Europe" thus became the most powerful ruler of her time and Europe to be at the mercy of her diplomacy.

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However, the beginning of her regency was not that easy.

No prince in Europe wanted to accept a woman on a throne - and yet she became one of the most powerful persons of that time. No one seems to have mastered the art of 18th century alliance diplomacy better than Empress Maria Theresa.

One fact should be put straight: Maria Theresa was never actually crowned empress. She was called Empress after her husband Francis I became Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
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During her reign Maria Theresa initiated many reforms: she renewed the judiciary and created a supreme court for the first time. In education policy, she advocated compulsory schooling. She also left her mark on architecture: the Vienna Stock Exchange and the Burgtheater were built, Schönbrunn Palace underwent a major redesign, and the streets of Vienna were gradually paved.
The architecture of the Habsburg monarchy has influenced many cities along the Danube.

Maria Theresa's reign also has its dark sides, such as in 1744, when she expels 20,000 Jews from Prague or has thousands of Protestants resettled in distant and sparsely populated areas of the empire such as Transylvania, the Bačka or the Banat.
These regions, which were difficult to cultivate at the time, are now multicultural and multilingual.

No woman shaped the Danube countries as much as Maria Theresa - which is why the positive image of her many years of dedicated work still predominates in the public eye today.
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