Remembrances of Linda Andre, Leader in the Fight Against ECT

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The struggle for mad liberation is an unbroken chain of resistance and solidarity that passes from one generation of psychiatric survivors to the next. We remember those who came before us, who witnessed and validated our pain, grief, and rage, and who encouraged us to lift our voices for change. For countless survivors, Linda Andre was that person—whether they knew her personally or through her written words.

Linda Andre spent the last eight years of her life institutionalized at the Manhattan Psychiatric Center, where she died by suicide this month at age 63.

She was perhaps best known for her 2009 book Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment (Rutgers University Press), a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award, and hailed as “brilliant analysis” and “a masterpiece of scientific writing” in a review by Stefan Kruszewski MD in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. 

Prior to receiving shock, Andre had been a young, talented, and prolific photographer and writer on photographic theory. In Doctors of Deception, she wrote about the unquantifiable, permanent harm she experienced at age 24 from 15 coerced shock treatments at New York Hospital: “My life was stolen. No words can really describe it. Memory. Loss. Forgetting. None of them even come close.”

Andre’s activism began in 1985 soon after she’d endured ECT, when she began attending the New York living room gatherings of psychiatric survivor resistance group Project Release, said Laura Ziegler, a fellow mad activist who met her through the organization, worked on shock issues with her, and helped her research her book.

She wrote in Doctors about finding solace in her fellow ECT and psychiatric survivors, particularly acknowledging Marilyn Rice, founder of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry (CTIP), who became her friend and mentor: “Marilyn was the one person I could call at 3 A.M. to talk about all this stuff.”

After Rice’s death in 1992, Andre took on her role as director of CTIP. She credited inheriting her mentor’s “voluminous” archival material as indispensable in the research and writing of Doctors.

In a 1993 tribute to Rice in Disability Studies Quarterly, she wrote of the life-changing magic of survivor solidarity and support: “Marilyn’s greatest legacy may be the impact she had on the lives of so many shock survivors…I honestly don’t know where I would be today if I hadn’t known Marilyn.”

Andre furthered her mentor’s fight and legacy. Ron Thompson, another fellow activist who knew her since the late 1980s, said: “Linda never backed down from a confrontation with any of her ECT adversaries, especially arch-ECT proponent Max Fink.”

A tribute published on the website of the National Association of Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) notes: “As an activist Linda was a researcher, organizer, spokesperson, lobbyist, writer, muckraker, and gadfly—as well as a target for smears by the industry she exposed.” Her persistent efforts gained her national visibility, with interviews and appearances in major media including 20/20, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic.

The NARPA tribute also characterizes her as “a wellspring of information, validation, and support to countless shock survivors who found their way to her.”

Shock survivor Dorothy Dundas said of Andre: “I shall always be grateful to Linda for writing her amazing book, the bible to many of us who were lucky enough to survive the atrocities of ECT.”

ECT survivor and activist Sarah Price Hancock did not know Andre personally but told Mad in America of her tremendous impact on her work. “Her meticulous research laid the foundation for peer-led patient safety advocacy efforts…She is gone too soon. I promise to carry the torch she lit. We’re at a point in ECT informed consent and patient safety advocacy that her torch is becoming a vibrant, bright beacon—shining a spotlight on truths previously kept from patients, families, and the public at large. I wish she was here to witness what lies just over the horizon. Her warrior spirit remains in our hearts.”

In addition to Andre’s activism, she also wrote a blog from 2005-2010 called Grandma’s Gone Surfing, which detailed her experiences as a forty-something learning to surf in the Rockaways and which seemed to bring her joy, recalled Susan Rogers, fellow activist who’d organized, written, and protested with her.

In her final years, Andre continued to advocate as director of CTIP. In a passionate 2016 letter opposing FDA’s decision to down-classify ECT machines, she wrote: “Now FDA intends to put the ECT device into the same category as an X-ray machine. But no one who ever had an X-ray ever got off the treatment table missing five, ten, or twenty years of their lives.”

She was laid to rest in a private ceremony in New Jersey on September 20 and is survived by her son, Alandra Markman, and brother, Robert Andre. Markman is planning a public memorial in New York, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Remembrances of Linda Andre

Readers may send their remembrances of Linda Andre to [email protected], and they will be posted here. Here is a link to a video of her giving testimony about electroshock on August 31, 2000.

Janna Weiss

We buried Linda on Wednesday September 20. She took her own life on September 2, 2023.

Present at the funeral on September 20, 2023:
Alandra Markman – Linda’s son
Robert Andre – Linda’s brother
Connie (Constance) Lesold – long time friend of Linda Andre and activist
Susan Rogers – ECT activist
Phillip Bennett, former board member, Disabled in Action, interviewed Linda for WBAI The Largest Minority
Janna Weiss

A few years ago I compiled as much of Linda’s hospitalization history that I could find.
Her hospitalizations started in 2010, less than a year after her book was published and before her planned NY Times interview. She was hospitalized every year subsequently, for three to five months each time, until she was held continuously for almost nine years.

She was continuously hospitalized from November 5, 2014, and transferred to Manhattan Psychiatric Center (MPC) on March 31, 2015. She was moved to the MPC Transitional Living Residence (TLR), also on Wards Island, on February 22, 2017, where she remained until her death on September 2, 2023. She was force drugged and force hospitalized.

When Linda was moved to MPC TLR, she still had a court appointed guardian. In January 2020, the court granted Linda’s motion to remove the guardian, but we were unable to save the apartment. In December 2018, Linda was evicted from her 2-bedroom affordable housing apartment, a Mitchell-Lama co-op that she owned. Linda refused whatever housing options that MPC TLR offered, such as SROs.

I first met Linda in January 2016, in an MPC closed ward. Seth Farber (of blessed memory) sent an email asking if anyone would be willing to reach out to Linda. I called Linda and asked her if she wanted me to visit, and she said yes. I had just started teaching in Manhattan and visited her 14 consecutive weeks during that semester and less frequently after that.

Laura Ziegler asked me to tell Linda about the FDA hearing on downgrading the ECT device. Linda gave me a handwritten statement that I typed up and that was submitted to the FDA on her behalf in March 2016.

At Linda’s request, Dan Fisher interviewed Linda in September 2016. Linda was subsequently discharged to the MPC Transitional Living Residence on February 22, 2017. She was discharged from the closed psychiatric ward, but not from MPC.

Linda and I did many things together—we went out to eat in Manhattan and Queens many times, which she enjoyed, traveled to housing court and guardianship court together several times, to file papers and attend hearings. Other friends also came to the hearings. We picnicked at the TLR stone tables, sat on the grass together, watched and fed the squirrels and birds, and ate pizza that I brought from 125th St in the TLR dining room. We walked the path of Wards Island Park. We visited her apartment twice, shopped for clothes and shoes, and did other errands together.

Linda stayed in my apartment 18 days and nights during 2018, over eight consecutive weekends, including one 4-day Memorial Day weekend. The hospital stopped her visits to my apartment because they didn’t know if she was taking her psych meds.

During those first 14 weeks in 2016, I shared as much of the mind training practices that I was teaching with Linda as I could—my handouts, quizzes and tests. When Linda stayed in my apartment in 2018, I read almost all of Awakening Loving Kindness by Pema Chodron to Linda aloud.

One lovely memory is when we sat together for hours under a tree on the grass in the sun beneath a looming MPC tower. I read 16 Guidelines for Life: The Basics by Alison Murdock and Dekyi-Lee Oldershaw aloud, stopping after each chapter to ask if it was enough or if she wanted another one. Each time, Linda said, “Another one,” and picked another chapter. We read most, if not all, of the book together, chapter by chapter, that day.

The day of her death, I went to MPC TLR and recited prayers next to her body that was laid out in a body bag on the floor. Then I met the medical examiner who was very compassionate. He asked me about Linda and I said that she was the author of Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment. He asked if “doctors” referred to all doctors or only to psychiatrists. I said, “Only psychiatrists.” He was very very compassionate.

Linda was a courageous activist to the end. I hope that Linda’s death results in more compassion for all, and an end to forced drugging, forced hospitalization, and electroshock (ECT, electroconvulsive therapy).

On Friday September 15th, the hospital held a memorial for Linda outside on the grass by the tree where Linda often sat. At the memorial, the executive director of MPC, Dr. Brian Belfi, said that MPC planned to create a permanent memorial at that same place outside TLR.

Linda is buried in Forest Green Park Cemetery, 535 Texas Road, Morganville, NJ. She is survived by her son, Alandra Markman, and her brother Robert Andre. Born December 20, 1959. Died September 2, 2023. She was 63 years old.

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Laura Ziegler

Linda Andre first came to Project Release at a meeting in Louise Wahl’s Manhattan apartment in early 1985—not long after being subjected to electroshock. She was introduced to Project Release by Allen Markman, who produced the Madness Network show on WBAI and was a Project Release member. Linda sat on the floor and seemed subdued, detached and sad. I remember Allen complimenting her on her clothes and calling her “the Frances Farmer of the movement.”

I remember another Project Release meeting, either that year or the next, at Linda’s apartment on St. Mark’s Place. Years later, I described to her how she’d strolled around during that meeting, seemingly indifferent or oblivious to what was being said, as if she was walking along a beach. She replied, “I was organic then”—meaning, organic brain damage. Despite knowing what electroshock did to people’s brains, I still hadn’t made the connection. But, as a shock survivor, Linda didn’t have that luxury. She lived the connection every day.

In 1985 Linda participated in a madwomen’s radio presentation on WBAI. About her life after shock, she said, “And they all say the same thing, over and over again: ‘But you look so good.’ Because what does a woman need a mind for, anyway?”

I remember painful phone conversations with Linda, arguing to her that she shouldn’t suicide. One evening I called her from Long Island. She answered in a slurred voice and seemed so out of it, I thought I’d interrupted an attempted overdose. I called Allen Markman and he went to her apartment. What had happened: Linda went to some clinic complaining about insomnia. She was prescribed what she assumed were sleeping pills and had taken some to sleep. But the pills were neuroleptics. They wore off, but under their influence she’d fractured her toe and dropped her watch in her cat’s water dish.

In the fall of 1987, Linda asked me to accompany her to a TV studio where a new show hosted by Morton Downey Jr. was being recorded for WWOR. She asked me because, while not a shock survivor, I was a fellow activist who was public about a personal experience: I was promised/threatened with shock when locked up, to try to keep me from pursuing a court hearing.

The episode was never aired. Afterwards, Linda told me a woman on Downey’s staff complimented her on her legs and said she wished she had long legs like Linda. What she had to say about shock and brain damage apparently made less of an impression.

When the NYS Office of Mental Health held a conference on research in 1988, Linda and I both attended. I remember taking her to the doorway where she could intercept then-Governor Mario Cuomo after his keynote speech and question/confront him about shock. I remember her at one of the demonstrations against shock, holding up her sign about the OMH Commissioner:

SURLES ON SHOCK:
”                               “

(Editor’s note: It was her way of saying that the OMH Commissioner had nothing to say about shock.)

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Ron Thompson

I can’t remember when i first met her, but it must have been the late ’80s, as I came to know her mentor, Marilyn Rice, through Linda, for a few years. Marilyn Rice died of a heart attack in 1992, looking older than her 60-odd years as a result of stress from the ECT abuse, which cost her the mental skills she had as an economist working for the Federal Government, leading to the involuntary end to her career.

Two very different personalities, but I always admired the single-mindedness and focus of both. Marilyn was a gentler personality while Linda was always apt to be more in-your-face, but both were utterly sincere and deeply informed.

Always attractively dressed, Linda apparently had had no serious emotional problems, but consented to ECT in the context of No Informed Consent, which greatly added to the feeling she had been betrayed. (Conversely I was very lucky to not know of the existence of ECT during my worst period, lasting 13 months. If I had I would have demanded it immediately).

Linda never ever backed down from a confrontation with any of her ECT adversaries, especially Max Fink.

Linda was locked up psychiatrically against her will around 2010. I last time I tried to see her, about 10 years ago at Manhattan Psychiatric, she apparently refused to come down to meet with me.

I know that she was very upset that her book, Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment, had very low sales. I’ve read my copy and find it an excellent piece of work. A psychiatrist, Stefan Kruszewski, who was asked to review it, approached his task with great skepticism, but was agreeably surprised and wrote a glowing review.

A favorite and amusing memory I have of Linda, although my reaction could have been the opposite, was how she often needled me as having a “rich wife” (not so, but she had a good job) as reason for my not being as obsessed or intense as she was almost all the time. But I liked our intellectual and personal jousting and shall miss her, as I have this past decade.

Linda will also be fondly remembered by Laurel Gilbert, another survivor of ECT, who worked closely with her on a major 1985 ex-patient conference, one of the earliest and most important.

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Jim Gottstein

Linda was an extraordinary person with an important legacy. I got to know her a bit as I went to various conferences in the 2000s and was so very impressed. Her book, Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know about Shock Treatment, is the authoritative work on electroshock. I know Linda was disappointed about its not having a bigger impact, but it is so important that she wrote it and that it exists. I think it has had a bigger impact than Linda realized and will continue to make an important contribution.

In 2011 and 2016, Linda and I collaborated on a couple of submissions to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). She refused to take any credit for the first, but the second one is a joint submission by the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights (PsychRights) and the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry (CTIP), which she headed. They lay out the compelling scientific case against electroshock. “Collaboration” is a stretch because all of the substance is her work.

At a time when my financial situation was difficult and I went to New York City for the oral argument in my appeal of Eli Lilly’s obtaining a permanent injunction against me for further dissemination of the Zyprexa Papers, and the sky-high hotel rates were a problem for me, she let me stay at her apartment even though she was not going to be there. I owe a lot to Linda—as do we all. I am heartbroken Linda has left us.

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Susan Rogers

Although I didn’t know Linda Andre well, I respected and admired her enormously: Despite the life-altering impact that she experienced from shock treatment, she fought valiantly for the rest of her life to ensure that people knew its dangers so that they had the opportunity for “truly informed consent.”

Linda’s great book—Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment (Rutgers University Press, 2009)—was called “brilliant analysis” and “a masterpiece of scientific writing” in a review by Stefan Kruszewski MD in the International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. 

I remember when Linda and I set up an informational picket outside the Carter Center during their symposium about Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (1999), because the report used the words “safe and effective” to describe shock. We didn’t stop anyone from entering the Center; we were just trying to educate people. But a Carter Center official asked us to stop.

I also attended a meeting that Joseph Rogers set up for Linda, along with Al Guida (then staffing the National Mental Health Association), to meet with Dr. Richard Nakamura, then a highly placed official at NIMH, about the Surgeon General’s Report. Al and I were just there to support Linda, who made the presentation to Dr. Nakamura. One thing stands out: After Linda had spoken for a while, including about the terrible impact that shock had had on her cognitive abilities, Dr. Nakamura said, “Well, you seem pretty smart to me.” And she immediately responded, “You should have known me before.”

I also worked with Linda on press releases—including to get the word out about the article by shock proponent Harold Sackeim, published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2007, which concluded with the sentence: “[T]his study provides the first evidence in a large, prospective sample that adverse cognitive effects can persist for an extended period, and that they characterize routine treatment with ECT in community settings.” And I also arranged for her to speak to a group in Philadelphia to educate them about the dangers of shock.

On another note, I used to follow Linda’s blog, which she called “Grandma’s Gone Surfing,” in which she described her experiences learning to surf in the Rockaways. It seemed that she had found something to give her joy. But after a while she stopped writing the blog. And, by then, we had lost touch.

I was so sorry to learn that this amazing woman has left us. She will not be forgotten.

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Will Hall

Linda was an outspoken hero and one of my most memorable Madness Radio guests:

https://www.madnessradio.net/madness-radio-electroshock…/

Some survivors have the “I don’t care what anybody thinks; this is the truth and I’m not shutting up” attitude: just what is needed to change the world. This was Linda’s uncompromising stance: she worked tirelessly to expose the fraud, corruption, and mass violent injury caused by electroshock / ECT / electroconvulsive therapy. She was right, and I hope the world will catch up with her one day. Just sad she won’t be here to see it.

https://shepherd.com/book/doctors-of-deception

http://www.narpa.org/bios/andre.linda

http://www.ect.org/ctip_about.shtml

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Andre

https://lifeafterect.com/the-controversial-history-of…/

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Rob Wipond

I tried at various times to get in touch with Linda over the years, just to tell her how much I loved her book. Unfortunately, I never did get to talk with her, but just a couple of months ago I included a mini-review of Doctors of Deception among my five favorite books about contemporary forced treatment.

https://shepherd.com/best-books/involuntary-commitment-and-psychiatric-treatment

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Dorothy Dundas: I shall always be grateful to Linda for writing her amazing book, the bible to many of us who were lucky enough to survive the atrocities of ECT.”

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NARPA

NARPA has published a remembrance of Linda Andre that includes links to articles about her life as an activist fighting ECT.

 

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Peter Lehmann, Berlin Germany

As happy as I am to have met Linda at a conference in the USA many years ago, I am now saddened by her death so soon. This will spur me on not to let up in the fight against criminal electroshock and the shockers’ primitive lies about their cruel “benefits”. My condolences to Linda’s family and friends.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Following her own tragic experience with permanent memory loss following shock treatments (AKA: ECT or Electroconvulsive Treatment), Linda Andre took on the Shock Treatment establishment. She was the author of a remarkable book, Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know about Shock Treatment, among her other work in advocating for the mentally ill. Even now, over eighty-years after its introduction in the U.S., there is still no adequate scientific evidence that shock treatment is safe or effective in the long run. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warns: “…The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated.” (Code of Federal Regulation, Title 21, June 7, 2023). There are, in addition, the accounts of the numerous survivors of ECT who reported severe and, in some instances, disabling memory loss and cognitive damage following ECT, including myself (see my MIA articles, “Committed at 16: Memories of a State Hospital,” “State Hospital Memories: More of My Story,” and “The Shady World of Shock Treatment.”) Yet, The American Psychiatric Association and those Psychiatrists profiting from the continued use of ECT refuse to accept the truth. It is nothing but medical fraud of the worst kind, no different than the tobacco industry long denying the many risks of their products or Purdue Pharma long denying their narcotic pain medication, OxyContin, was addictive.

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    • I was wondering the same – I had been trying to locate Linda for several years. We met at her book launch at the Women’s Bookstore In Toronto. I showed her around Toronto then and also a second time when we met at the PsychOut Conference in Toronto where she presented with Mary Maddock and Don Weitz. We corresponded for a while and then she disappeared. She was brilliant.

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  2. I’m very sorry to hear of the death of Linda Andre. Thank you to everyone who has shared their memories of Andre and her work. It has been surreal to review so much that has happened since 1985. While Andre and others were beginning their activism, I was focused on my first child and had no idea that psychiatric harm would befall our family in the near future. The reality of psychiatric harm smashes our naive sense of goodwill and security. Linda Andre is an amazing person and I thank her for her service and leadership.

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  3. I ready Linda’s book. It felt so validating. Not a ‘touchy feely chicken soup’ book by any means. But, to me, it felt like the kind of big hug you get by someone who really knows and believes you.
    My heart has broken once again knowing she suffered more after writing her book. I wonder if her hospitalizations were retaliation??? Were they? And if so, was she left there to rot?
    She deserved better. So so much better! WE ALL DO!!

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  4. Linda Andres book was a great validation to me. Hearing of her passing broke my mental patient heart even more than it already was. I’m sure many who read MIA know just what I mean. She was such a courageous woman!!! I am so grateful to her. This earth is worse off now that she’s gone. I wish we could save each other and ourselves. RIP Linda.

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  5. I started to read the tributes and memories of Linda Andre and had wanted to add my own but couldn’t remember times and places but clearly see Linda with her son around eight or ten, a beautiful child with blond hair, she with her brilliant smile. I probably also saw her when I was an activis and friend of Louise Wahl who was a strong activist against shock treatment and who made her little apartment available to survivors. I can see Linda with a sign against shock but not clear of the demonstration near a park where there was a youth hostel many of us stayed at. I was reading Laura Ziegler’s post and had other clear memories I cannot entirely place. What made me either sadder was to learn that she spent the last years of her life in an institution. The least I can do is write a poem in memory of her after reading more of the posts. This is written with my fading memory but some are loud and clear enough to write and feel sad about.

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  6. I have known Linda since Marilyn Rice passed on to her her “Committee for Truth in Psychiatry” legacy to Linda, an organization of 500 shock survivors, all of whom experieced devastating memory loss. I reprented Committee for Truth in Psychiatry in the Texas 1993 hearings to eliminate forced ECT in Texas, completely ban ECT for those under sixteen, and mandates a fresh consent form and signature for each individual “treament.” (This story in and of itself is facsinating.) The Texas legislation, organized and run by shock survivors alone, succeeded. Many shock survivors testified before the Texas and House. (I am a shock survivor myself.) In fact, Texas to this day, because of this legislation, has the strongest laws in the United States regarding the right to refuse ECT. Of course, the informaton received in the informed consent is yet woefully inadequate. But at least, no one, in essence, can have ECT forced on them in Texas–a great victory.

    As Linda was working in her book, I was working on mine, which took much longer than expected. Linda and I would meet at NAPA (Network Against Psychiatric Assault) every year where she recorded some of my talks on the ECT machine research I was doing. I completed my two Volume set entitled The Great Electro Convulsive Therapy Hoax (Manufacturer Fraud and Deception) Vol 1 and II only recerntly, which now identifies specific amount of excessive electricity delivered by five generatons of MECTA and Somatics devices, proving that excessive electricity is dleiberately and calculatedly delivered to various age recipients in an effort to calculatedly reduce neural connections in the brain. (See Amazon books). Linda was exceedinly interesed in my research and called me several times for advice for her own work, Doctors of Deception and wanted to edit it. Upon completion and thsn publication of my works, I attempted to call Linda many times, but never could reach her, only learning of her tragic demise through Leah Harris’ article, “Remembrances of Linda Andre, Leader in the Fight Against ECT.” I was outraged. To be truthful, I cannot understand how we, the movement, allowed Linda, a champion of psychiatric rights, to be locked up and drugged against her will. I still cannot and am left only to surmise what actually happened. In any case, I am dedicating the yet unpublished article summarizing my work, “Summary of The Great Electroconvulsive Therapy Hoax, Volumes I and II (Manufacturer Fraud and Deception)” to Linda Andre who fought the good fight and sort of won and sort of lost. I do know that she thought my research was important and looked forward to its completion. I only wish I had known.

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