Teacher Writes About Female Empowerment

In social studies classes across the country, most of the primary historical figures are men. Women only appear sporadically in many curriculums and when they do, they are usually portrayed as “helpers” rather than “doers.”

RHS history teacher Heidi Hemming was determined to change that fact. With her sister, Julie Hemming Savage, Hemming wrote “Women Making America”, a book that illustrates the importance of the contributions of American women through the centuries, from revolutionary housewives to suffragettes to “Rosie the Riveters.”

Hemming said, “I want [readers] to see women as being important to the American story, and not just a�� a side box or an ugly photo of Susan B. Anthony.” Hemming will sometimes read excerpts from her book to her students when she believes the MCPS curriculum falls short on women-related material.

Hemming’s love of history stems from her childhood in Germany, where her father served in the U.S. military. She recalls him pulling her out of school to travel to castles and museums, where she could experience history for herself. This passion has served her well as a teacher.

Hemming had just finished her Master’s degree at the University of Maryland when she and her sister came up with the idea for this book. It grew out of a frustration with the lack of generalized literature about women available to the public, “There was no book like it out there,” Hemming said.

The six-year writing process involved checking out hundreds of books. The sisters carefully selected themes to base each chapter on. Writing “Women Making America” was a meticulous task. Hemming said that she would sometimes have to “read an entire book to write a one paragraph.”

Hemming recalls how Savage often “put the brakes” on her in an attempt to minimize the text’s size. They would frequently come together to combine their material and edit each other’s work.

Years of effort culminated in the book’s 2009 publication, appearances on radio shows and praise from co-workers. Composition Assistant Helen Clark especially enjoyed its captivating anecdotes in the sidebars. “You just learn so much about these a�� unsung heroes a�� I think it belongs in every library,” Clark said.

Students are also impressed with Hemming’s accomplishments. Senior Danny Hoffman, who was Hemming’s student his freshman year, said, “[Hemming] was one of the few teachers I’ve had that encouraged me to pursue my interest in the class outside the classroom.”