ROSE Blog Interviews: Hillary Rettig, author and activist

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Sep 01, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Hillary Rettig is an author and progressive activist. Hillary, Stormy Peters, and Deborah Nicholson are helping organize the FSF Women in Free Software Mini-Summit, which will be held September 19th.

Q: Who are you?

A: I'm author of the book The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way (Lantern Books, 2006), which is a self-help guide specifically for progressive activists – it helps them manage their mission, time, fears and relationships. I'm also a lifelong progressive activist, with my current focus being the free software and animal rights/vegan movements. I have also worked in high tech (journalist, consultant, entrepreneur) and microenterprise, the field of helping economically disadvantaged people start businesses. I have also have four foster children who were refugee foster kids from Sudan, and last year donated a kidney to another activist, which was a fantastic experience. I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, which has led to my always being comfortable with technology, and attended the Clarion SF Writing workshop and published in Asimov's. Right now I'm interested in romance fiction, especially as a vehicle for transmitting values.

Q: What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

A: I informally advocate for it, and support other activists and advocates in their work.

Q: You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source-related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?

A: I would be more likely to be speaking with activists from other fields – for example, environmentalists, feminists, animal rights/vegan activists, anti-poverty activists, and anti-globalization activists. I can make a strong argument that anyone who supports those causes should be totally on-board with free/open source software because of the shared cored values of individual freedom and empowerment, decentralization of power, and social justice.

Q: You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

A: Again, my focus is not career options but activism – and the reasons are similar to the above. I would tell high school students that activism is such a tremendous lifestyle, even if you don't earn your living from it. You are constantly learning and growing and connecting, and you meet the most amazing people. There are also many, many ways to do activism, and you can do it in whatever form is comfortable for you, and as part of any lifestyle.

Q: What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

A: Why should free software/open source people go vegan? Because of the shared values mentioned above: If you reject corporate hegemony (or fascism, if you prefer) in your software, why would you accept it on your fork? Not to mention the antibiotics and other contaminants, heinous labor abuse, and heinous environmental degradation. There's lots of information and support out there for people who want to go more veg, and I invite anyone who needs more info to contact me.


If you are a woman in open source, I'd love it if you'd take a moment to answer these interview questions and send your responses to me at rkite AT linuxpromagazine DOT com. If you'd like me to interview a particular woman in open source, drop me a line and let me know who she is and where to find her.

Additional reading:

Interview with Carla Schroder

Interview with Kelaine Vargas

Interview with Moose (Ohio LinuxFest)

Interview with the GNOME Foundation's Stormy Peters

Interview with Beth Lynn Eicher (Ohio LinuxFest)

Interview with Erica Brescia, CEO of BitRock

Interview with Linux Foundation's Angela Brown

Interview with Dru Lavigne

Interview with GSoC participant Kanika Vats

Interview with FSF's Deborah Nicholson

Interview with Kanika Vats

Interview with Hillary Rettig

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