Letter To The Editor: Turn Back On 377 Years Of History? No


To the Editor,

Article 12 of the Annual Town Meeting Warrant proposes to change the name of the Board of Selectmen to the “Select Board”.   I urge the Town Meeting to vote no on this article. 

Manchester has had a Board of Selectmen since 1645, give or take a few years when Charles II decided that the Massachusetts Bay Colony didn’t deserve to govern itself.  Over the centuries, the eligibility to serve as Selectmen has evolved from male church members in good standing to men of property and most recently men and women elected by the town.  Since Suzanne Noble broke the gender barrier in 1985, the Board of Selectmen has always had at least one woman member, often two, and sometimes three.  The nine women Selectmen have served a total of 68 years and have served as Chairman for at least nine years.  Not one of those women was deterred from service because she perceived the term “Selectman” as sexist and exclusive. 

The Gloucester Daily Times described this warrant article as “Use gender neutral language for town titles.”  As a woman, a person, a female, and a human, I have practice distinguishing between the use of a gender specific term in a title and in pragmatic use like “Men’s Room.”   The argument in favor of adopting the term “Select Board” appears to be that “everybody is doing it.”  My mother (and probably yours) had an answer to that argument.  The proponents say that this is not a question of political correctness.  If not that, then what is it?  To me, it sounds as if the proponents are pandering to “the ladies” whom they presume to be too delicate to allow themselves to be called by a name ending in “man”.  If there are such ladies in Manchester, I have yet to meet them.  

Other committees that call themselves Boards – Planning Board, Board of Health, Animal Control Board - all have some indication of their function in their names.  Select Board suggests nothing more than a piece of lumber that doesn’t come from Home Depot.  Should we abandon 377 years of tradition for a non-descript term because “everybody’s doing it”? 


Ann Harrison


(978) 491-7051

selectmen, select board, freedom of expression, board of selectmen, the gloucester daily times, suzanne noble