First female Filipino American Legislator in the United States
June 05, 2020
Influenced by her grandmother, who was politically active in local and regional Filipino politics, Thelma Buchholdt began her own political career in Alaska in 1972, when she ran for a seat on the Anchorage School Board. It was a very close election and for that reason she was asked to run in 1973, for a seat in the Alaska State House. From 1974, she served for four consecutive terms in the Alaska House of Representatives, where she championed community and environmental issues and established funding for the Alaska Commission on the Status of Women.
Thelma was a politician, civil rights leader, attorney, author, mother and trailblazer. The first female Filipino American legislator in the United States, she also founded various centers and organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alaska, the Filipino Heritage Council of Alaska, and the Asian Alaskan Cultural Center. For 30 years, she served on the Alaska State Advisory Committee of the US Commission for Civil Rights.
In the late 1970s, she produced a short documentary film and in the 1990s, she wrote a book on Filipino history in Alaska, titled "Filipinos in Alaska: 1788-1958." She accomplished all of this while raising four children. Thelma was married to her husband Jon Buchholdt for 50 years until her death in 2007.
Credit: Alaska State Library, Portrait File, ASL-Buchholdt-Thelma-2