Women’s History Month – Thelma G. Buchholdt
Women’s History Month
Thelma G. Buchholdt
UDC Alum: Alaska Legislator, Civil Rights Leader, and Author
Elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, where she served four terms, Thelma G. Buchholdt is the first Filipino-American legislator in the U.S.
Former Alaska legislator, civil rights leader, author and attorney Thelma G. Buchholdt, was born Aug. 1, 1934, in Claveria in the northern Philippines. She completed her elementary and secondary education in seven years.
Buchholdt came to the U.S. in 1951, graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College in Los Angeles and enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. She and her husband, Jon, graduated from the University of District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law in 1991. Both became members of the Alaska Bar Association.
She taught elementary school until the family moved to Anchorage in 1965. Buchholdt was active in the Anchorage community through the March of Dimes and the League of Women Voters, and she helped found the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alaska.
Buchholdt became involved in politics as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee of Young Democrats. George McGovern named her Alaska coordinator for his 1972 presidential campaign. She was appointed to the Alaska State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1973, Buchholdt was elected the first woman president of the Filipino Community of Anchorage, serving two consecutive terms.
Challenges facing those in leadership in Alaska during the 1970s included political conflicts to determine how to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous peoples during the construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. A second major challenge was the equitable distribution of billions of dollars of new revenue.
Buchholdt was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1974 as an Ad Hoc Democrat. She was the first Filipino-American woman legislator in America. She was re-elected in 1976, 1978 and 1980.
She served on the House Finance Committee, later becoming vice-chair of the committee. Buchholdt championed funding for community and cultural centers and many local roads, trails and parks. She sponsored and won funding for an underwater bio-acoustical survey of Alaska’s bowhead population. Buchholdt also won funding for the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1980, she was elected the first Asian-American president of the National Order of Women Legislators. And in 1994, Buchholdt was appointed director of Alaska’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
Buchholdt became an expert on the history of Filipinos in Alaska. She produced a 30-minute documentary film on the subject and wrote a 200-page book, “Filipinos in Alaska: 1788-1958.” She was national vice president of the Filipino-American National Historical Society.
Thelma Garcia Buchholdt, died Nov. 5, 2007, at the age of 73.
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