Gunhild Palmqvist became, in 1945, the first woman in Sweden to be elected chair of a youth political association. The association concerned was the Folkpartiet (Liberal People's party) youth association (FPU).
Gunhild Palmqvist came from a pro-abstinence missionary family in Stockholm. Her father was employed as a building contractor. She became active within the women’s abstinence organisation called ‘Vita Bandet’ (the white ribbon) and served as leader of its youth section.
Gunhild Palmqvist initially worked as a literary advisor for a publishing house. She had gained her school-leaving certificate by attending night-classes and gained her Bachelor’s degree in 1945 whilst also doing office work. She was elected onto the FPU association board in 1942, became a study supervisor in 1943, and a secretary in 1944. When she took on the post of chair of the FPU she was 27 years old and at that time this was considered unusually young for the post. The election of a woman for the role of chair gained wider attention. Karlstads-Tidningen, for example, noted that: “Here is an example of a youth organisation that not only dares to make admirable speeches but also acts according to notions of equality and equal rights.”
Gunhild Palmqvist was particularly involved in two issues: that of education policies and women’s employment rights. She wanted to improve conditions for female professionals such as nurses, home helpers, and child-care providers.
During Gunhild Palmqvist’s time in charge of the FPU the organisation enjoyed success and an increase in membership numbers. In December 1945 she participated in the first radio debates held between representatives of the various political party youth organisations. This was organised by the innovative radio journalist Gunnar Helén, who later himself served as chair of the FPU and as party leader.
Gunhild Palmqvist also served as the ombudsman for Folkpartiet liberalernas kvinnoförbund (FPK) (Folk party liberal women’s association). This was not well-received by the FPU’s deputy chair, Matts Balgård, who wrote to the party leader Bertil Ohlin in 1946 saying that should a chair of the FPU also be a member of a women’s association this would led to “a psychologically repellent effect on the very young people we are seeking to attract”. It would be seen as “evidence of a lack of quality amongst the FPU leadership”.
One of the FPU’s important roles following the Second World War was to reinstate ties with liberals in other Scandinavian countries. This came to have a major impact on Gunhild Palmqvist’s personal life. She met a Danish journalist who was a member of the Radikale Venstre party, and then married him, which resulted in her moving to Denmark in 1951. There she and her husband ran a publishing house and office-supplies company.
Gunhild Palmqvist died from the effects of cancer in 1963.