Berwyn Heights (Then and Now: Maryland)

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9780738553672: Berwyn Heights (Then and Now: Maryland)
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Berwyn Heights is a village juxtaposed with an American metropolis, as it lies barely 10 miles from the heart of Washington, D.C. It has changed much since its beginnings in 1888, yet it retains its small-town advantages, illustrating that, though a place may change, its essence remains.

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About the Author:

Author Ann Harris Davidson has lived in six countries on four continents. Since settling in Berwyn Heights in 1989, she has undertaken projects to enrich and preserve her town's quality of life.

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Title: From Paris to Prince George's County: Town historian proud to call Berwyn Heights home

Author: Joshua Garner

Publisher: Maryland Gazette

Date: 112/24/2008
Call her the "international woman."
Ann Harris Davidson spent decades hopping across the globe in Africa, North America, Europe, and Australia before settling down in the town of Berwyn Heights nearly 20 years ago, where she grew roots as a community activist and local historian. This year the native Swaziland became a citizen of the U.S.
In March, she published her first book, ''Berwyn Heights: Then and Now." With it she hopes to recognize that the history of the town is important not only to current residents but also to those in the future. But her road to town historian has been guided by a global view.
She's worked in Paris, went to college in Canada. She's taught school in Australia and grew up in southern Africa. After meeting her husband, Stephen White, who accepted a job as a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, she set sail from Paris to Prince George's County.
"To one degree or another, I miss all the places I've lived, but I am as happy and comfortable [in Berwyn Heights] as I've been anywhere else," she said. "Once one has traveled a lot, one can adapt to most areas."
But the move from Paris in 1989 left her without a job - despite having a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in public health, her visa did not allow her to work. But she said she kept busy with her newborn child and sudden interest in local activism, where she advocated for school desegregation, was a board member of the school system's community advisory council and was instrumental in the reopening of Berwyn Heights Elementary School in the late 1990s.
"I just had to make do and use my skills and abilities to make myself useful in other ways," she said.
Nearly 20 years later, those skills and abilities Davidson used are still at work. She spends her time juggling work as a board member for the Prince George's County Historical Society, writing educational grants and tutoring students for standardized tests.
"I don't really have an average day," she said.
And then there is her self-appointed task of being a historian for Berwyn Heights. She became intensely interested in researching the town after finding out that her house was originally a Sears catalog home. Soon she found herself digging through news clips and interviewing people who lived in the town during the 1920s and '30s.
There were, of course, the sordid town stories she enjoyed: the one of young children stealing items from the town or the one where a man married his former stepmother. These tales, and others like them, helped inspired "Berwyn Heights: Then and Now," which can purchased at most local book stores.
"I hope there will be recognition that [Berwyn Heights'] history is important and that it will be enjoyed by future residents," she said.
But some within the town are already recognizing Davidson's mission.
"I've never seen anyone who has such an avid interest in history," said Edward Murphy, town administrator for Berwyn Heights. "She brings to the town this tremendous interest in the education of history."
With her globe-trotting days behind her, Davidson said she is looking forward to continuing her efforts as both a historian and a local activist. She hopes to write more books in the future, she said, but for now is keenly focused on the present.
"One must live for the moment - not for the past or future," she said.

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