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AAPI Month 2021: Thelma Buchholdt


Thelma Garcia Buchholdt graphic courtesy of FANHS Alaska
Thelma Garcia Buchholdt graphic courtesy FANHS Alaska

In honor of AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Heritage Month, today’s post is about Thelma Garcia Buchholdt. She was a great public servant, and the first Filipinx state legislator in the U.S.


Buchholdt was born in the northern Philippines in the 1930s, when the territory was working toward becoming independent from the United States. She graduated high school early at age 15 and came to the U. S. to continue her education. After grad school, she became a teacher. She moved to Anchorage, Alaska with her husband Jon Buchholdt and their four children in 1965.


Thelma Buchholdt volunteered in the community in many areas, including co-founding the Boys and Girls Club of Alaska, as an active member of the March of Dimes, the League of Women Voters, and the Ad Hoc Committee of Young Democrats in Alaska, and as an appointed member of the Alaska State Advisory to the US Commission on Civil Rights.


Buchholdt was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1974, serving four terms until 1982. She helped pass legislation to improve public education, environmental protections, public art programs, and supporting victims of domestic violence, just to name a few issues she worked on while serving there.


She returned to college in 1988, earning a law degree in 1991, and opened a law firm with her husband. Buchholdt also researched Filipinx Alaska history, published Filipinos in Alaska: 1788-1958, and produced a documentary film on the same subject. She served as president of the Filipino-American National Historical Society as well. Thelma Buchholdt died in 2007.


Through her public service in the Alaska and Filipino American communities, Buchholdt became a role model and a historical figure herself. I hope more people will come to know about her, through her work and through events like AAPI Month when we can learn about remarkable people like Thelma Garcia Buchholdt.

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