Evanston aldermen are scheduled to discuss changing their title at Monday night’s Rules Committee meeting.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, raised the issue at a recent City Council session, suggesting the title should be changed from “alderman” to “council member.”

Grover said she favors switching to what she said would be a gender-neutral term.

The City Council has had female members for at least a few decades and currently six of the nine aldermen are women.

The practice in Evanston, as it is in Chicago, has been to use the title “alderman” for all members of the City Council — although occasionally a visitor to the council chamber will stumble over whether a female member should be addressed as “alderwoman” instead

That seems to happen about as often as the aldermen are addressed as “trustees” by someone more familiar with speaking to the village boards in other towns, rather than the City Council here.

Practices about what to call the elected members of the local legislative body vary widely in different communities.

Milwaukee has it both ways. Those elected to the City Council are referred to collectively as “council members” but their individual titles are “alderman” or “alderwoman.”

In St. Louis the group is the “board of aldermen” but the gender-specific variants are used for individual members, while in Newton, Mass., it’s “board of aldermen” and individual members are “alderman” regardless of gender.

If Google is your guide to popularity, “council member,” with over 18 million citations, is more popular than “alderman,” with fewer than 8 million.

New York City uses “council member.” So does Los Angeles, although in LA it’s spelled as one word — “councilmember”

Councillor,” with over 14 million citations, and an additional 4 million for the alternate spelling “councilor” is especially popular in England and other English-speaking countries other than the United States, and might give us an added air of sophistication, but then it could be confused with its homophone, “counselor,” an alternative name for an attorney.

Boston is a major U.S. city where the term “councillor” is in use — although the city website is inconsistent about the spelling.

Of course, in an era of tight budgets, the discussion will inevitably also include consideration about whether, if a change is made, existing stationary should be used up or disposed of, and how much it will cost to make new name plates for the council chamber with the updated titles.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. A new title is not needed – new faces on the Council is

    This is just more evidence that our City Council is woefully out of touch with the fiscal realities facing our citizens.

    In a serious recession with chronic debt and unemployment, our Council spends it's energy passing a costly green ordinance, debates a pension for themselves, gives themselves a 20 percent pay raise and allows the mayor to decide a Tilted Kilt, which would have given the city much needed sales and liquor tax, was inappropriate for Evanstonians. Now our wise Council that knows better than us wants to ban bags and spend energy and time debating what to call themselves.

    Hey City Council members or aldermen and alderwomen, where are the jobs? Why do our local taxes and utility rates keep rising as our property values fall? Where's the tax relief for property owners?

    I personally know people who are moving out of Evanston specifically because of the high tax rates and the nonsensical policies of our elected officials. Just watch our housing market decline again this year because potential buyers are catching wind that Evanston is a highly taxed and highly regulated city.

    How about this for a new name that's gender-neutral.


  2. “Title Changes”

    OMG this makes my blood boil. With the fiscal mess we're in, our Aldermen want to waste more time discussing their titles! are you kidding?

    Although, now that I think about it, I'm reminded that this is the same group that spent hours working overtime to find a way allow chickens in the backyards of residential areas and couldn't kill the proposed new bar/restaurant proposal fast enough. "Out of touch" doesn't adequately describe these people.

  3. What shall we call aldermen?

    Council member is a good unisex title, but our aldermen might be called other things, like unresponsive…

  4. Nothing better to do?

    Do we now need a "Blue-Ribbon Committee" paid for with a city-sponsored gift [our tax dollars] to determine the politically correct and expedient term for the wastrels that now inhabit the council chambers? Do we need to listen to the endless debates on the Official Evanston Spelling (passed into law and then codified in the City Code no less) of WOMYN

    Al's got a nice idea, and COMRADE is fitting in the People's Republik, but even after so many years, the term Comrade maintains a feeling of  being one's friend and compatriot, neither of which are traits that any on the council have.

    How about we call them UNEMPLOYED?

    As for Alderperson Jane, and said with my most misogynistic and sarcasm filled voice:  Stop wasting time on frivolities; back to the kitchen with you- make some sammiches.


  5. Comrade is right!

    Seriously Jane?   

    Go back to debating  issues that are somewhat important like-  

    How you can better keep out businesses that cater to heterosexual men, businesses that are not green, and all businesses who give out bags

     How the city can provide medical services to the poor population that might include residents on north side of chicago, skokie, and evanston with the new clinic with just a $600,000 federal grant (if the grant comes through at all)

    and how you the city can cut or privatize services to the north side of evanston, and expect that anyone would continue to pay up to live in Evanston-  

    This council has got to go-  How many days until the elections? 



  6. Expensive timewasters?

    Expensive timewasters? (This article title is a pretty obvious straight line.) I agree about cleaning house including the mayor. But I would spare raney and the alderdude, whatever his name is. voices of sanity.

  7. Not a waste of time

    It is critical that our alder-persons spend adequate time on critical issues such as these so that they may log enough hours to qualify for their new pensions!  How else are they going to get to 1,000 hours per year?

  8. Council Members

    For the last 4/5 months it seems as if our Alderman/Alderwomen/Council are more focus on their personal desire rather than the needs of the City. Be it Alderman/Alderwomen/Council, they knew this when they ran for election. Seems to me the Council is losing touch with their responsibilities to the Evanston Community. The focus of non-important issues that the community could care less about seem to be there agenda vs. addressing the needs of the city. Give me a break Council and let us address issues that are affecting the community vs. your personal agenda. I agree, maybe it is time for a new council.

  9. I support Jane Grover

    I support Jane Grover and think it's appropriate for her to advocate for gender neutral terms.

    Jane is a thoughtful, conscientious public servant. All of our elected officials are faced with daunting budget constraints and ever-escalating needs. It's an unenviable position.

    If you have strong opinions about the issues–go advocate for what you want. but leave the disrespectful sarcasm at home please.

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