Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (US: /ˈfɪnboʊɡəˌdoʊtər/ FIN-boh-gə-doh-tər,[1] Icelandic: [ˈvɪxtis ˈfɪnpɔɣaˌtouʰtɪr] (listen); born 15 April 1930) served as the fourth President of Iceland from 1 August 1980 to 1 August 1996. She was the world's first democratically directly elected female president.[2] With a presidency of exactly sixteen years, she also remains the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date. Currently, she is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and a Member of the Club of Madrid.[3] She is also to-date Iceland's only female president.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Vigdis Finnbogadottir (1985)
Vigdis Finnbogadottir in September 1985
4th President of Iceland
In office
1 August 1980 – 1 August 1996
Prime MinisterGunnar Thoroddsen
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Davíð Oddsson
Preceded byKristján Eldjárn
Succeeded byÓlafur Ragnar Grímsson
Personal details
Born15 April 1930 (age 89)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Alma materUniversity of Paris
University of Grenoble
University of Copenhagen
University of Iceland

Early life

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was born in Reykjavík on 15 April 1930. Her father, Finnbogi Rútur Þorvaldsson, was a civil engineer, as well as a professor at the University of Iceland. Her mother, Sigríður Eiríksdóttir, was a nurse and the chairperson of the Icelandic Nurses Association. They had two children: Vigdís and then a son,[4] Þorvaldur, a year later. After passing her matriculation exam in 1949, Vigdís studied French and French literature at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris from 1949 to 1953, then studied the history of theater at the University of Copenhagen. She then acquired a BA in French and English, as well as a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education, at the University of Iceland. She married a physician in 1954, but divorced in 1963, and at the age of 41 she adopted a daughter, being the first single woman who was allowed to adopt a child.[5]

Vigdís participated in the 1960s and 1970s in numerous rallies held to protest against the U.S. military presence in Iceland (and in particular at Keflavík). Every year hundreds—sometimes thousands—walked the 50-km road to Keflavík and chanted "Ísland úr NATO, herinn burt" (literally: Iceland out of NATO, the military away).

Artistic and academic career

After graduation, Vigdís taught French and French drama at the University and worked with experimental theatre. She worked with the Reykjavík Theatre Company from 1954 to 1957 and again from 1961 to 1964. During the summers, she also worked as a tour guide. Vigdís taught French at Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík 1962–67 and at Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð from 1967 to 1972. She also taught for a while at University of Iceland, as well as holding French courses on RÚV, the Icelandic state television.[5]

She was the Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Theatre Company (Leikfélag Reykjavíkur), later the City Theatre from 1972 to 1980. From 1976 to 1980, she was a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs in the Nordic countries.

In 1996, she became founding chair of the Council of Women World Leaders at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Two years later she was appointed president of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.

President of Iceland

The Icelandic women's movement has a long history. During the International Women's Year in 1975 Icelandic women attracted great attention when they organized a general strike to show how important women's undervalued work was. 90 per cent of the Icelandic women went on strike. And at the presidential election in 1980 the women's movement focused on electing a woman. After much persuasion Vigdís accepted to run against three male candidates. She was the first woman in the world to be elected as head of state in a democratic election, despite being a divorced single mother. She was narrowly elected, with 33.6 percent of the national vote, while her nearest rival got 32.1 percent. She became very popular and was subsequently reelected three times, unopposed in 1984, with 94.6 percent of the votes against another woman in 1988 and unopposed in 1992. In 1996 she decided not to run for reelection.

Although the Icelandic presidency is largely a ceremonial position,[5] Vigdís took an active role as environmental activist and fought for Icelandic language and culture, acting as a cultural ambassador in promoting the country. She emphasized the role of smaller states and hosted a crucial summit between U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986. She had as her motto: 'Never let the women down' and worked specifically to promote girls' education. She was also aware of her role as a model for young women.[6]

In 1993, the work Mitt Folk, commissioned by the British government, by the composer Oliver Kentish was dedicated to her as a gift from the United Kingdom to Iceland celebrating the 50th anniversary of the republic.[7]


Since 1998, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador for languages.

She is also a member of the Fondation Chirac's honour committee,[8] ever since the foundation was launched in 2008 by former French president Jacques Chirac in order to promote world peace.


National honours

Foreign honours

Coat of Arms of Vigdis Finnbogadottir (Order of the Seraphim)
Arms as member of the Royal Order of the Seraphim (Sweden)

Honorary degrees

She has received honorary degrees from the following Universities:

Vigdís is a member of the Club of Madrid,[14] an independent non-profit organization composed of 81 democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries.

See also


  1. ^ "Finnbogadóttir". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  2. ^ "Club of Madrid: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir". Club of Madrid. 2003. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  3. ^ "Club of Madrid: Full Members". Club of Madrid. 2003. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  4. ^ "Finnbogi Rútur Þorvaldsson". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 9 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "First female head of state, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected 35 years ago today". Iceland Magazine. 29 June 2015. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  6. ^ Torild Skard (2014) 'Vigdís Finnbogadóttir' 'Women of power - half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide. Bristol: Policy Press ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0
  7. ^ "Cadenza Musicians Directory". Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  8. ^ "Honor Committee". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  9. ^ "Icelandic Presidency Website". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  10. ^ Boletín Oficial del Estado
  11. ^ State visit, 1994, Photo Archived 3 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine of Beatrix, Claus and Icelandese President
  12. ^ "Queen Iceland". Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  13. ^ "President Vigdis blir æresdoktor ved UNIT". Aftenposten. 1993. Retrieved 2 August 2010.
  14. ^ The Club of Madrid is an independent non-profit organization composed of 81 democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries. It constitutes the world's largest forum of former Heads of State and Government, who have come together to respond to a growing demand for support among leaders in democratic leadership, governance, crisis and post-crisis situations. All lines of work share the common goal of building functional and inclusive societies, in which the leadership experience of the members is most valuable.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Kristján Eldjárn
President of Iceland
Succeeded by
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Diplomatic posts
New office Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders
Succeeded by
Kim Campbell
1930 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1930 in Iceland.

1980 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Iceland on 29 June 1980. The result was a victory for Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who received 33.8% of the vote. She became the world's first democratically elected female President.

1982 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1982 in Iceland.

1984 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were scheduled to be held in Iceland in 1984. However, incumbent President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the only candidate, and the election was uncontested.

1986 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1986 in Iceland.

1988 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Iceland on 25 June 1988. The result was a victory for the incumbent president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, who received 94.6% of the vote. The election marked the first time a sitting president was challenged in an election.

1992 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were scheduled to be held in Iceland in 1992. However, incumbent President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the only candidate, and the election was uncontested.

1992 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1992 in Iceland.

1995 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1995 in Iceland.

1996 in Iceland

The following lists events that happened in 1996 in Iceland.

Björn Hjörtur Guðmundsson

Björn Hjörtur Guðmundsson (14 January 1911 – 14 July 1998), also known as Bjössi, was an Icelandic craftsman, master carpenter, idealist and environmental pioneer. He lived and worked in Borgarnes, Iceland, where he designed and constructed a small theme park for children called Bjössaróló, with play equipment which he built entirely from salvaged materials, and maintained it for many years. The President of Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, visited Bjössaróló in 1993.

Bjørnson Festival

Bjørnson Festival (Bjørnsonfestivalen) is an international literary festival held annually during August / September in Molde and Nesset, Norway. The event is named in honor of the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson who was raised in the area. The prime objective of the festival is to promote interest in literature and writing. The festival offers a program of seminars, art exhibitions and writing courses.The Peace Grove (Fredslunden) is located next to the Royal Birch (Kongebjørka) in Molde. It was founded by author and poet Knut Ødegård, president of the Bjornson festival in 1997. The Peace Grove stands as a reminder of the international struggle for freedom, peace and human dignity. Among those who have planted trees in the Peace Grove are visiting authors including Wole Soyinka, Yasar Kemal, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Seamus Heaney, Amos Oz, Bei Dao, Hans Blix Qiu Xiaolong and Thor Heyerdahl.

First Lady of Iceland

The First Lady of Iceland refers to the wife of the President of Iceland. The country's current First Lady is Eliza Reid, wife of Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, since 1 August 2016.

There have been no First Gentlemen of Iceland, to date. Iceland's first female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, had divorced in 1963 and was unmarried during her tenure as the country's president.

Iceland–Ireland relations

Iceland–Ireland relations refers to the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Iceland and the Republic of Ireland. Both nations are members of the European Economic Area, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the United Nations.

Kristján Eldjárn

Kristján Eldjárn (Icelandic: [ˈkʰrɪstjaun ˈɛltjaurtn̥]; 6 December 1916 – 13 September 1982) was the third President of Iceland, from 1968 to 1980.

His parents were Þórarinn Kr. Eldjárn, a teacher in Tjörn, and Sigrún Sigurhjartardóttir. He graduated in archaeology from the University of Copenhagen and taught at the University of Iceland. In 1957 he was awarded a doctorate for his research into pagan burials in Iceland. He was a teacher at the Akureyri Grammar School and the College of Navigation in Reykjavík, becoming a curator at the National Museum of Iceland in 1945 and its Director in 1947, a position he held until the 1968 presidential election.

In 1966–68 he hosted a series of educational TV programs on the (then new) Icelandic National Television (RÚV), in which he showed the audience some of the National Museum's artefacts and explained their historical context. These programs became quite popular, making him a well known and respected popular figure. This no doubt gave him the incentive needed to run in the 1968 presidential election as a politically non-affiliated candidate.

Starting as the underdog in the 1968 presidential election, running against Ambassador Gunnar Thoroddsen who initially had a 70% lead in the opinion polls, Kristján won 65.6% of the vote on a 92.2% voter turnout. He was re-elected unopposed in 1972 and 1976. In 1980 he decided not to run for another term, wanting to devote his remaining years entirely to continuing his lifelong academic work.

President Kristján Eldjárn died following heart surgery in Cleveland, Ohio on 14 September 1982.His son Þórarinn Eldjárn is one of Iceland's most popular authors, specializing in short stories, but also writing poetry and an occasional novel. His daughter Sigrún Eldjárn is also an author and illustrator of several children's books.

List of cabinets of Iceland

This is a list of cabinets of Iceland.

Oliver Kentish

Oliver John Kentish (born 1954 in London, England) is a British-born cellist, tutor, and composer, living in Reykjavík, Iceland, moving there in 1977 and being granted Icelandic nationality in 1989. Kentish composes orchestral, choral, vocal, and chamber music.In addition to composition, Kentish has been the Artistic Director of the Iceland Amateur Symphony Orchestra (Sinfóníuhljómsveit áhugamanna) since 2005.Kentish was commissioned by the British Government in 1993 to write the work Mitt Folk which was performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and is dedicated to Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. The work commemorates the 50th anniversary of Iceland as a republic and was a gift from Britain to Iceland.

Much of Kentish's current work (2008) is for the countertenor Sverrir Guðjónsson.His work Prelude and Fugue for 10 violas was premiered in the United Kingdom at the Purcell Room in London on 30 November 2008.

Reykholt, Western Iceland

Reykholt is a village in the valley of the river Reykjadalsá, called Reykholtsdalur. It is part of Borgarfjörður, Western Region.

Reykholt was at one time one of the intellectual centers of the island and had for many years one of the most important schools of the country. The poet and politician Snorri Sturluson lived in Reykholt during the Middle Ages. Sturluson's records of the Old Norse language and mythology of medieval Iceland are invaluable to modern scholars. Remains of his farm and a bathroom with hot pot and a tunnel between the bath and the house can still be visited. The Snorrastofa Cultural / Research Centre was established in Reykholt on September 6, 1988 with opening ceremonies attended by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, President of Iceland and King Olaf V of Norway.Today, the village has 60 inhabitants, a school centre and a library concentrating on the works of Snorri Sturluson. A statue of Snorri by Gustav Vigeland can be found here. Archeologists are still working here and finding medieval remains. In the vicinity, Japanese scientists are doing research on the aurora borealis (the northern lights).

About 20 km from Reykholt, there are the lava waterfalls Hraunfossar. It is also possible to go from there to the caves Surtshellir in the lava field Hallmundarhraun (about 35 km). On the way to Borgarnes, people pass by the hot springs of Deildartunguhver. They exceed all the other hot springs of the country in their output of hot water: 180 litres/second at 97 °C.

Women in Iceland

Women in Iceland generally enjoy good gender equality. As of 2018, 88% of working-age women are employed, 65% of students attending university are female, and 41% of members of parliament are women. Nevertheless, women still earn about 14% less than men, though these statistics do not take into account the hours worked, over-time and choices of employment. Iceland has the world's highest proportion of women in the labour market, significant child care allocations for working women, and three months' parental leave for both men and women.Iceland is arguably one of the world's most feminist countries, having been awarded this status in 2011 for the second year in a row. Iceland was the first country to have a female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected in 1980. It also has the world's first female and openly gay head of government, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was elected prime minister in 2009.Iceland enjoys the smallest overall gender gap, according to the World Economic Forum ranking Global Gender Gap Report, a position it has held since 2008. In 2016 Iceland had a 12.6% gap, as measured across four categories: health, education, economic participation and opportunity, and political advancement.The pay gap between women and men is decreasing at a rate which would lead to parity in 2068. Women earn about 72% of men's salaries on average, and are still subject to domestic and sexual violence.


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