It is now the Wilton Select Board, and that is a victory – a victory for women, of course, but also a victory for common sense.
How could it remain a Board of Selectmen when a woman has been serving on it?
The 2-1 vote to change the name is welcome and, we hope, a precursor to other boards doing the same. In Milford, for instance, women have been serving for decades.
Voting to change the name were Kelli-Sue Boissonnault and Kermit Williams, the former we can, and should, call a “selectwoman,” the latter, of course, retaining the title of “selectman.”
Voting against it was selectman’s Chairman Bill Condra, who initially moved to table the question until next year when it could go to a town meeting vote. His argument was that, as far as he knew, only 30 or 40 people had expressed an opinion in favor of changing the board’s name and that did not “represent the more than 2,000 voters on the checklist.”
People who don’t express an opinion either don’t care one way or the other, or simply can’t be bothered to say what they think, just as so many people can’t be bothered to vote.
How many of those more than 2,000 on the checklist went to the polls this week?
Nothing is harmed by this change from Board of Selectmen to Select Board. One could argue the old name is tradition, but there are many things that were tradition that have changed over the years.
The name “Board of Selectmen” came into being when only men were allowed to serve because only men were allowed to vote. To keep the term is to say to women that not only is the name traditional, but perhaps the old ideas of who should vote and who shouldn’t are lamented.
Well, they’re not. Women have the right to vote – a right for which they had to fight. It wasn’t handed to them by enlightened men who decided, in 1919, that they – the men – had held exclusive power for too long. And it didn’t happen overnight. The fight for suffrage began in the 1840s, about 80 years before men finally got the message.
In the 1870s, women actually tried to vote but got turned away at the polls. And one of the champions of women’s suffrage, Susan B. Anthony, actually succeeded in voting in 1872 and was arrested for that act and found guilty in a widely publicized trial that gave the movement fresh momentum.
Fortunately, Selectwoman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault didn’t have to go to jail to get the board’s name changed.
This is a good change. This says to the people of Wilton, the people of New Hampshire, that their elected officials understand equality is more than just a word. On Wilton’s governing body – in name, at least – it is real.