In 1975, over forty-five years ago, Iceland went through a decisive moment in its history. Over 90% of the women all went on strike at the same time. They refused to do any work, didn’t cook, and did not look after children either for a whole day. It is seen as the day where the country realized how important women were to keep the nation going and definitely put Iceland at the forefront of a fight for equality.
Just five years later and Vigdis Finnbogadottir was elected as Iceland’s president, the first female president in Europe and the first-ever woman in the whole world to be elected democratically as a head of state. She was so good at her job that she went on to hold the position for 16 years, to the point that many Icelandic children grew up assuming that being a president was a woman’s job. This caused Iceland to go on a path that many labels as becoming the world’s most feminist country.
However, even Vigdis herself is adamant that she would never have become president if that day in 1975 had not happened. It was the day women showed their importance to the country. They went on a huge rally protesting against the inequality of rights with men. In Iceland, it is now a national day off for Woman, and for Vigdis, it was the day she knew what she wanted to do with her life. She says it completely paralyzed the county and ensured many men realized exactly how the woman was keeping the nation afloat.
Reportedly banks, factories, shops, schools, and nurseries all had to close, which left many fathers taking their children to work. Of course, a crowd of overexcited children in the workplace is nearly impossible to keep calm so on that day, not much work got done! It is said sausages were sold out nearly immediately, which is the only meal that most men knew how to cook at the time.
It was an amazing moment of solidarity and strength among all women in Iceland. The idea started 100 years ago in 1915 under the name The Red Stockings but many women thought it was too confrontational. After the movement was renamed to Women’s Day Off, that is when it really took off – and the rest is history.