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July RI Women’s History Feature: Interview with Hilary Levey Freedman

Interview by RIDWC Caucus Member Judi Zimmer



What advice would you give your 12 year-old self? Don’t ever throw out the pins you wore: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim [Elie Wiesel],” and “Your silence will not protect you [Audre Lorde].” Sadly you’ll really still need them in 2020.


What or who got you interested in politics and political issues, and when? Growing up (in Michigan), where the Friend of the Court was involved in my life, and I attended parochial school that treated me as someone who identifies as female as less-than, I learned I had to speak up for myself. I’m a joiner by nature, so that naturally led me to be politically involved, in high school and beyond.




Have you considered running for office? Why or why not? I have always felt called to serve, to help others and try to repair the world. I still have some decades (well, I hope!) to figure out exactly what that looks like, and someday that could involve running for office. For now I’m doing what I can to accomplish the above.


What is your greatest challenge as a politician/activist/advocate? Whether a politician, activist, advocate, or some combination of the three, we need people who will fight for their views in the room where it happens. Whether I’m helping someone else take a seat at a table, or finding ways to sit down myself, that’s the key to change in my opinion.


What advice would you give to 12 year-olds today? Never stop believing in the power of possibility.



Hilary Levey Friedman is President of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Women. Her day job is teaching in the Department of Education at Brown University and raising two sons to be honorable people. In her spare time she’s written Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America, which uses pageants to trace the arc of American feminism (out August 25th!).


About Judi Zimmer

Our monthly Rhode Island Women’s History Column is written by Judi Zimmer. Contact the RIDWC at RIDWomensCaucus [at] gmail [dot] com if you have suggestions for future columns about notable Rhode Island women, past and present.


The Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus seeks to impact government and political processes in order to ensure equality in power, influence, and economic status for those who identify as and with women. We will do this by (a) recruiting and supporting candidates in all levels of government and (b) advocating for Democratic principles consistent with the Democration Party platform.

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