Helen Rudee

Helen Rudee

Helen Rudee in her Santa Rosa home, Friday, February 8, 2013. Rudee was the first woman on the board of supervisors. Image taken by Crista Jeremiason, courtesy of The Press Democrat.

Helen Rudee was the first woman elected to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and the “poster person” for the beginnings of women’s politics in Sonoma County. Rudee grew up on a farm on the Great Plains, five miles out of the very small town of Anamoose, North Dakota. She later moved to San Francisco to live with her great aunt and go to school.

Rudee was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Santa Rosa School Board and in 1967 became the first woman elected to the county’s Board of Supervisors. She was also the board’s first chairwoman. Over the course of her twelve years in office, Rudee’s determination and composure earned her a leadership role in the new movement towards women in politics.

Rudee was also involved in the Women’s Political Caucus in the Bay Area and in the formation of the county’s Commission on the Status of Women. After her time on the board ended, Rudee remained very active as a speaker on matters such as education and health care that were underlying larger women’s issues. In 1996, Rudee was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Sonoma State University and for her service to her community and influence on her times. The Press Democrat named Helen Rudee one of the 50 Most Influential People in Sonoma County during the 20th Century.