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Activist, Journalist, and Badass Helen Sloane Dudman Passes Away at 93

Helen Sloane Dudman, 93, an Ellsworth, Maine-based businesswoman and a pioneer of state freedom of information laws, passed away from congestive heart failure on February 19th, 2018.

Dudman, a former editor for the Washington Post who held multiple executive positions with their broadcasting division and with PBS, is survived by her daughters Iris and Martha Dudman and her four grandchildren.

“‘Formidable’ is a very good way to describe her. She was a very strong woman. She made things happen. She had a lot of ideas and she did an awful lot of things in her life,” said Iris Dudman. “She liked to accomplish things and she accomplished a lot.”

Helen Dudman was born January 13th, 1925 in Cincinnati and grew up in Chicago. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1946 with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and married fellow journalist Richard Dudman in 1948. She worked as an editor for the women’s section of The Post from 1965 to 1969.

In 1970, Dudman’s husband was one of three journalists who was kidnapped and held captive for 40 days in Cambodia while covering the Vietnam War. Dudman used her influential contacts with the Washington press corps and within diplomatic circles to bring attention to her husband’s situation. She told The Post that she had no doubt he would survive the ordeal.

In his book, Forty Days With The Enemy, Richard Dudman credited his wife with securing his release. He died last August at age 99.

In 1979, Helen Dudman purchased three radio stations in Maine. By 1981, she and her husband decided to move to Ellsworth, Maine permanently. She and her daughter Martha operated the radio stations until selling the business in 1999. In the 1990s, Dudman also worked to establish community radio stations in South Africa.

Dudman had been very active in local reform. She helped to implement crucial changes to Maine’s workers’ compensation program, she chaired the state’s Judicial Responsibility and Disability Committee, and was a board member of the Maine Employers’ Mutual Insurance Company.

“She was extraordinarily intelligent, strong in her views, and committed to making Maine an even better place. I so valued her friendship over the years as did my mother with whom she became close friends,” said family friend and US Senator, Susan Collins.

“An important thing to remember about my mom: She was really ahead of her time,” said Martha Dudman. “She went back to work and became a very successful businesswoman at a time when very few women were in the business world and succeeding in it.”

Helen Sloane Dudman lived an extraordinary life and will be greatly missed by her family, friends, and members of the community. A memorial service is scheduled for March 17th, 2018. Condolences may be expressed here.

Featured Image by Britt Reints on Flickr

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