This is the second of a series of blog posts about the initiatives I announced in my Inaugural Address.
In my inaugural, address, I pledged to support the creation of the Melrose Commission on Women, first proposed by Alderman Jennifer Lemmerman, to provide a unified voice to “promote issues in the community, such as family policies, equal pay, and women’s health, and recognize the accomplishments of Melrose women past and present.”
The Board of Aldermen will hold a public hearing on the order establishing this commission at 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16.
I asked Alderman Lemmerman to tell me a bit about what inspired her to initiate this order, and here’s what she said:
Through my work and personal relationships, I have known several people who were members of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women as well as commissions in other cities. They have done some really great work in their communities, particularly around working with young women and girls in school and preserving the history of women in their communities.
I have always been aware that we have had that kind of history in Melrose, which was home to the pioneering suffragist Mary Livermore in the 19th century and her granddaughter, Mary Livermore Barrows, the first woman member of the Board of Aldermen, in the 20th. That was what first planted the seed for me: We don’t have the infrastructure in place to raise awareness of the history of strong women in the community and the important contributions that women are making in our community. Right now our city engineer is a woman, and we have a female firefighter; women have put themselves into these prominent roles in previously male dominated careers, and I want to know how they got there and what that experience was like for them. I would like to see them go to the middle school and talk to girls who are thinking about what they want to be, and maybe feeling they are not sure there is a place for them in these types of careers, while there are women doing it right here in our community.
The flip side is that I hear about a lot of the challenges women face simply because they are women. From a personal perspective, my peer group and my friends are dealing with things like putting off having families because they don’t know if they can afford to take time off to take care a child, or if doing so would put them behind in their career. We see the upper levels of our organizations are dominated by men, and women are still making less money than men at the same level. While a commission like this won’t have the power to change policy, they will be strong advocates for change, taking those stories that women have to tell and bringing them to the people who can change those policies.
I want the commission to be a broad group that represents as many experiences, as many stories and voices that represent the changing face of Melrose, as possible. We need to have people from various professions, from various backgrounds in terms of newcomers, people who have been here for generations, diversity in race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and religion, so we can really represent the whole community.