To the Editor:
The Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Forum (MVWF) was founded in 2020 to create community among women, partner with other organizations to address pressing Island needs, and support the participation of women in all areas of social life on the Vineyard. Meeting over Zoom during the pandemic, the forum includes over 60 Island residents (seasonal and year-round) from all six towns.
As we move through Women’s History Month and approach the season of spring annual town meetings, the Martha’s Vineyard Women’s Forum respectfully asks that the selectmen in Aquinnah, Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury add the following warrant to the upcoming annual town meetings replacing the dated term of selectmen with the more inclusive term select board: “To see if the town will vote to rename the Board of Selectmen to Select Board or take any action relative thereto.”
At least 85 towns in Massachusetts, including Tisbury, have adopted this more inclusive terminology. In 2020, the Massachusetts Select Board Association (formerly Selectmen’s Association) followed suit by changing its name, reflecting a movement among towns to adopt a gender-neutral name for their elected policy board.
Why prioritize making this change now?
We know from research that inclusive cultures perform with greater productivity. We also know that our words matter, and may affect whether an individual or group feels included or excluded.
For a truly representative town government, it is essential that we do not artificially limit ourselves with real or perceived barriers to entry, but rather thoughtfully dismantle obstacles — including antiquated language that, intentionally or not, is not inclusive — so that all are encouraged to participate fully.
Thank you for your consideration and leadership in working to make our towns more inclusive.
Jane C. Edmonds