Submitted by Darren Smith, Guest Blogger
While attempting to rediscover the procedures to replace a recently resigned mayor, city officials in Sisterville, WV noticed the 175 year old City Charter declared women are denied the right to vote.
While it certainly is unenforceable on account of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, city officials are raising objections to making the change to the charter due to cost.
One official, City Recorder Julie Scheiler reportedly said “We don’t need to amend it because the 19th Amendment takes care of it. It would be a waste of paperwork.”
The waste of paperwork would include legal fees, having public hearings, and the cost of printing a new charter in “expensive leather-bound books.” Newly appointed Mayor Ann Doig claimed that she wants to work on altering the charter’s text “but to change a charter is extremely expensive.”
The elected officials who have grievance with formally adopting the idea of allowing the other half of their population to vote must have other issues that are more pressing to a representative democracy.
Other items on the council’s agenda recently included a public hearing to record their agenda of Council approving the payment of $395,230.11 accounts payable and $498,559.28 payroll for the Sistersville General Hospital. They approved the payment of $16,833.55 in invoice listings and $58,866.53 for credit card bills. The council held several readings to repeal certain zoning laws in the city. And, a part time police officer was approved to full time status. Plus, the now recently appointed Mayor Doig said that she will try to be available in City Hall for at least a couple of hours every day.
It is good to see that a high priority is placed by a local government on officially recognizing the right of women to vote. Maybe they can find the resources and resolve to do so within the next seven years before the 19th Amendment’s centennial.
20 thoughts on “Suffrage in Sisterville: City Charter Denies Right to Vote to Women and Officials Cite No Need to Amend Due to Cost”
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Thanks for finally writing about >Suffrage in Sisterville: City Charter Denies
Right to Votte to Women and Officials Cite No Neeed to Amend Due to Coost | JONATHAN TURLEY <Liked it!
good, they would only be in the way of men doing their civic duty. barefoot, pregnant and in the way. back, back to the kitchen, says i.
I couldn’t agreement more with Unoffended Female. Sistersville residents don’t have the money to pay for unnecessary legal fees and expenses. This is a town in, in a state with a large number of poor people – people on fixed incomes who have a difficult time just paying their water bill and basic living necessities. Have you never heard of Maslov??? Spending money on updating an outdated charter that is void because of state and federal legislation is ridiculous when you can barely provide for your family. However, I suspect that the fine people of Sistersville would gladly accept donations from those anonymous posters like Rafflaw who think this is an inexpensive fix.
@rafflaw Yes PLEASE STAY OUT OF SISTERSVILLE. It is a wonderful little place. I would bet if someone opened the charter from your home town they would find silly things like this in it. This is a NO NEWS STORY. When the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution came to being the City of Sistersville’s law of women not voting was null and void just as it was in every other city in the USA.
They could just pay someone to black out the offending lines with magic marker
For those of us interested in history and the role that history plays in the development of a town’s culture, the following link briefly explains Sistersville’s founding (approx 1802) and growth:
And the following is an old map from 1896:
I was not trying to suggest that Sisterville was not a nice place to visit, but the lame excuse that it is too expensive to properly correct or amend the laws of the city is disturbing to me. As AY pointed out, the fix is not that expensive. At least, if they can find a quorum to do it.
There are dumb and unconstitutional laws in every state. In some cases, they are enshrined in the state constitution. There are still anti-miscegenation laws on the books in some states, although Loving v. Virgina made them invalid and therefore unenforceable in the 19 states that still had them at the time the ruling came down.
Put “stupid laws” or “funny laws” in your browser and see what you get. This web site is usually at the top of the searches returned:
To spin this to make it seem as though the city is not amending the charter due to sexist motivations is ridiculous. That’s not what it’s about at all. If you didn’t notice, the mayor of the city is female, the city recorder they interviewed is female, the city attorney is female. This is not a sexist town. This is not about sexism. It’s about finding old and silly laws in the town charter, laws that of course no longer apply and are no longer enforced. A town nearby recently updated their charter to the cost of $11,000. This is an unnecessary expense for a small town when women in Sistersville have absolutely no trouble voting whatsoever. And I am a female who believes in women’s rights. That’s not what this is about. Quit jumping to ridiculous conclusions.
Ye olde timey legal system at work.
Who needs a history book when you can walk around one of these places and see it live.
“All politics is local” said Tip O’Neill and he was right. This is an example of how on a small town level political systems are unable to deal with even the local issues that face them. This is why those who would maintain the status quo are so in favor of States Rights, because locally private factions can control and disrupt the political system. I’m sure this is a lovely town, with lovely people and That I would not mind visiting. Changing the Charter would no doubt strain local resources and there is no doubt an “in crowd” that controls the place. This is the insularity of small towns and why I personally prefer the City. The old saw about a City “being a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” is really more true about small town life.
This is a simple fix if they wished to… Amended the city charter to comport with the 19 Amendment….simple fix…. And then make available for inspection and glue it to the back page of the leather bound city charter….
i am a resident of Sistersville. For a long long time there has been and still is a group of citizens here who do not like change. For over 40 years the same people ran the city hall and were in the “stone ages” as far as computers, how they did the payroll typing checks on a “typewriter”, etc. They never even thought about doing anything to the charter There is also a negative group of citizens that hate outsiders “someone moving here from somewhere else.” We also have a wonderful group of people that can’t get over the high school closing in 1993 when the county consolidated with a beautiful brand new school. There are some new people now in the city hall and on the council however, they are fought on a daily basis by these negative people who thanks to some websites on the internet all get together, make up false information and due to the fact that the current newspaper reporter is one of them and only prints one side of the story, it is very sad that incorrect information gets out and makes us look so lame.
i am not saying the charter is not full of silly stuff, however, why have these life long now concerned not addressed this before?
Unfortunately the ones who love to complain, also hate to pay their city fees and do everything they can to get out of that which leaves the city short on revenue. Sistersville is a beautiful, scenic town on the Ohio River between Parkersburg and Wheeling. We have some wonderful festivals, the only running ferry in the state and beautiful old architecture. It is unfortunate the negative thinking of a very small group of citizens Who I guess just want this town to dry up and fall in the river bring it down on a daily basis by constantly running to the press with negative information and a battle cry of “Let’s take our town back”.
I see an opportunity for mischief that may cost this town a whole lot more.
Sistersville is a lovely little town in West Virginia on the banks of the Ohio River. Tex and I have made several weekend trips there over the years and enjoy the peace and relaxation.
But small towns are, well, different when it comes to things like Charters. One town up the road from Sistersville couldn’t even find their Charter, and the State couldn’t find their copy either. Somehow a copy was found somewhere but it probably wasn’t correctly dated. Oh well, everyone survived.
If you want to read some really funny stuff, go to the TylerStarNews dot com for the coverage of the council meetings that led up to the discovery of this “women are prohibited from voting in Sistersville” thing. The Sistersville Council meeting dates are August 14th, 21st and September 11th. After reading those three articles which quote everything said by everybody at the meetings, you might be better able to understand the difficulty in getting this group together to change anything. (At one point they sent the Police Chief to knock on doors trying to find council members so they could get a quorum.)
So raff, don’t stay away as I’ve been to this beautiful little town several times and enjoyed every minute of the time I spent there. But I don’t think I’d enjoy trying to corral the city leaders into doing something as difficult and time consuming as reviewing and changing a City Charter … even if they could find a properly dated copy. Besides, the cost is fairly high (I’ve been involved twice in Charter reviews here in my small town) and the people in Sistersville are having trouble paying for an extra set of keys for the Sistersville Public Library.
Interesting case Darren. I am amazed that this “error” wasn’t found earlier. Maybe the City can hold a bake sale to earn enough money to do the rih thing. Remind me to say out of Sisterville!
If after 93 years, major problem like this was found, I have to wonder about the other buried treasure in the city charter. The best thing to do is hold hearings and modernize the charter. Do it right and the city government won’t have to revise it for another 70 years.
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