By Alderman-at-Large William White
Folks have complained to me about the continued use of the name “Board of Aldermen” as being non-inclusive and that we should adopt the name “City Council.” As I have thought about it, the term “aldermen” actually means old wise men or patriarchs.
The term “alderman” originated in English municipal law and then was brought in this country as the colonies were established. That was long before women had the right to vote in either country.
In Massachusetts city government, originally there was a common council and a board of aldermen. The common council was like the house of representatives, which had more members, and the board of aldermen was like the senate.
So it seems that the meaning was that you had the board of old wise men to oversee city government. It simply isn’t an appropriate term to continue to use. As such, I have proposed a charter change at the next Board of Aldermen meeting to change the name to City Council.
There are very few boards of aldermen left in Massachusetts, as most communities have gone to city council, Everett and Newton being the most recent.