- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Classie Hoyle ran a vigorous campaign last year to become an alderman, but now she says she has rounded up enough votes to change the city's laws and become an alderwoman.

Her proposal would change a tradition begun with the nearly 300-year-old Annapolis charter, written two centuries before women were allowed to vote, of calling members of the city's legislative body "aldermen."

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an alderman is a "senior, signor, superior, ruler; a noble or person of high rank." It developed from the Old English word "aldor," meaning elder, and was used to identify a person exercising authority under the king over a district or county.

Mrs. Hoyle said she did not raise the issue during the election for the City Council, but brought it up late last year when the city was doing its decennial charter review.

Her arguments for adding the title "alderwoman" did not persuade the charter commission to include it among its recommendations.

But last fall Annapolis voters elected a woman as their mayor and a council on which four of eight members are women.

Alone, that shows the title alderman "is antiquated and outdated," contends Mrs. Hoyle, a 66-year-old former college administrator and Annapolis native who holds a doctorate in science education from the University of Iowa.

Alderman Louise Hammond said she thinks Mrs. Hoyle's proposal is "nonsense" and that she will keep calling herself an alderman, even if the law is changed.

"What are we going to call the manholes in Annapolis? That's what I want to ask her at the next council meeting," said Mrs. Hammond, a fellow Democrat who opposes the change with two men who make up a Republican minority on the council.

"We've had plenty of female members on the council and it [the title alderman] has never in any way indicated a slight," she said.

Yet with the support of Mayor Ellen Moyer, also a Democrat, Mrs. Hoyle says she will have at least the five votes she needs to approve an ordinance to specify that female council members may be officially referred to as "alderwomen."

Some staff at the mayor's office are already referring to the council collectively as "alderpersons" a term Mrs. Hoyle said she would be "open" to including in her bill if the council wants it.

Across the state in Frederick, changing the title alderman "probably is on the horizon" also, Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said yesterday.

Two elected members of Frederick's Board of Aldermen are women, and one, Donna Ramsburg, has tried before to get the title changed, Mrs. Dougherty said.

"As she told me: 'I don't look like I man, I don't act like a man and I don't want to be called a man,'" Mrs. Dougherty said.

"The whole notion is choice," said Mrs. Hoyle, who disagrees with critics who have said the word "man" is gender-neutral and that the issue is inconsequential and a waste of time.

"We no longer call firefighters 'firemen,' and the same with police," Mrs. Hoyle said. "When you look at professions that are historically male-dominated, things are changing."

Mrs. Hoyle said she believes the council won't get bogged down over the issue when it meets in September, but will approve an alternate title and quickly move to pressing issues.

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