It was November 1980, and Vigdis Finnbogadottir, a divorced single mother, had won Iceland’s presidency that summer. The boy didn’t know it, but Vigdis (all Icelanders go by their first name) was Europe’s first female president, and the first woman in the world to be democratically elected as a head of state. […]
But Vigdis insists she would never have been president had it not been for the events of one sunny day – 24 October 1975 – when 90% of women in the country decided to demonstrate their importance by going on strike.
You read that right: an entire country’s worth of women went on strike, forty years ago on this date.
Banks, factories and some shops had to close, as did schools and nurseries – leaving many fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. There were reports of men arming themselves with sweets and colouring pencils to entertain the crowds of overexcited children in their workplaces. Sausages – easy to cook and popular with children – were in such demand the shops sold out.
It was a baptism of fire for some fathers, which may explain the other name the day has been given – the Long Friday.
Remarkably, the action had near-universal support.
Styrmir Gunnarsson was at the time the co-chief editor of a conservative newspaper, Morgunbladid, but he had no objection to the idea. “I do not think that I have ever supported a strike but I did not see this action as a strike,” he says. “It was a demand for equal rights… it was a positive event.”