As a part of 8th of March (International Women’s Day) we did a Facebook campaign were we presented five great Nordic women who have all contributed to the fight for women's rights.
VIGDÍS FINNBOGADÓTTIR (b.1930) ICELAND
Vigdis Finnbogadottir was Iceland's and Europe's first female president. With a presidency of sixteen years (1980-1996), she is also the longest serving, elected female head of state of any country to date.
In 1972 she adopted a daughter, making her one of the first single women on Iceland who was allowed to adopt a child. Despite being a single mother she ran for the presidency, and won against her three male opponents. She was reelected three times before retiring in 1996.
During her presidency she became an environmental activist and fought for Icelandic language and culture, acting as a cultural ambassador in promoting the country. She made the headlines around the world when she hosted a crucial summit between the US President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, while the Cold War was still going on - the two most powerful men in the world meeting under the guidance of the female president of one of the world's smallest nations.
Her motto was: 'Never let the women down' and she worked specifically to promote girls' education. Nevertheless, she pointed out that she was elected president not as a woman, but as a human being and that she was as much the president of men as of women.
In 1996 she became founding chair of the Council of Women World Leaders at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and in 1998 she was appointed president of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.
Today she works as a UNESCO Goodwill ambassador.
ASTRID LINDGREN (1907-2002) SWEDEN
Astrid Lindgren is one of the world’s most popular and translated children book writers. She is currently the world's 18th most translated author and has sold more than 144 million books worldwide.
Although Astrid never defined herself as a feminist, she was de facto a fighter for women’s right and gender equality. Already as a young girl, Astrid shocked the citizens of her small hometown by cutting her hair short and dressing in men’s clothes and throughout her life she was never afraid of saying what she really thought and going her own way.
Astrid Lindgren's books are in fact full of strong, confident girls that go their own way.
When Pippi Longstocking was published in 1945 it become an immediate success – but also started a huge debate about how dangerous Pippi was and parents and teachers were worried about the moral decline the book would cause.
Pippi was published in an age when young girls was suppose to play quietly with their dolls, wear perfectly ironed dresses and always be obedient and well-behaved.
Pippi breaks with conventional ideas about how girls should behave. She marched into the boys’ and the adult men’s world without asking for permission. She was full of confidence and didn't sit around and wait for the prince to come save her on a white horse. In fact, she had her own horse that she could even lift above her head if she felt like it. Throughout the world, Pippi has encouraged girls to have fun, to be more daring and to have faith in their own ability. Pippi has even become a symbol for many feminists worldwide.
Apart from being a writer, Astrid was an opinion former and active participant in the political debates in Sweden. She was a spokesperson for peace and democracy, and was well known both for her support for children's and animal rights and for her opposition against corporal punishment. Her words often played a crucial role in the debates and she had a great effect of Swedish politics during her lifetime.
MINNA CANTH (1844-1897) FINLAND
Minna Canth was a Finnish writer and activist. She was the first female Finnish-speaking writer (at that time the main literature language in Finland was Swedish) and she is regarded as one of the most important play writers in Finland.
She was a very controversial figure due to her social activity and radical social opinions. Her works often center on poverty, social problems, working class, and women's rights.
One of Canth’s most famous plays is perhaps “Työmiehen vaimo” (The workers wife) from 1885. For the first time ever in Finnish theatre, the main role was played by a person with a working class background. The play criticizes the failures of society and the law system, especially concerning women’s right to dispose of their own money.
The play became a sensation and started a huge debate in Finland, and a few years later a new law was founded, giving women right to dispose of their own income.
Canth was also the first Finnish female journalist and wrote over 80 articles and speeches, and just as her plays her articles were sharp and critical and discussed subjects such as soberness, women’s rights, freedom of religion, finish language and socialism.
Apart from being a writer Canth was a brilliant businesswoman. When her husband died she decided to return to her hometown Kuopio and took over her father’s draper factory, while also taking care of her seven children.
In 2007 Minna Canth got her own flag day in Finland, 19 of March, which makes her the first women to get a flag day in Finland. It is also the day of social equality in Finland.
HANNE-VIBEKE HOLST (b 1959) DENMARK
Holst is a best-selling Danish author behind books like “En lykkelig kvinne”, “Dronningeofret’ and ‘Kongemordet’ and her books have been translated into ten languages (unfortunately neither English or Serbian)
Her first book was published when she was only 21, and she has since then written 18 books, including teenage books, novels and debate books. Holst was brought up in a home with traditional gender roles and she early started reflecting over the injustice and inequality between men and women. This has shaped her writing and all of her books more or less revolve around equality. Throughout her books she discusses how women can break through and get on an equal level with men both at home, at work and at the center of the political power.
Her book “Kongemorden” received a lot of praising for bringing up and breaking the taboo around violence against women. Holst has received many prestigious awards for her writing and she is an important voice in the public debate, especially in the subject of women’s issues and equality between the sexes.
When asked why she became a feminist Holst answered: How could you be anything else, as a fairly intelligent woman who was born into patriarchy (in 1959) and quickly realized that one of the sexes had higher status than the other?"
Her engagement in women's issues has made her a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and she also serves on the Board of Governors of the Danish Family Planning Association and is a member of the Danish UNESCO National Commission.
GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND (born 1939) NORWAY
“Woman power is a formidable force. Women will not become empowered merely because we want them to be, but through legislative changes, increased information, and redirection of resources. .”
Brundtland is a politician who served three terms as prime minister of Norway in the 1980s and ’90s and later was director general of the World Health Organization (WHO; 1998–2003). Her engagement has especially been focused on public health and environmental issues and with the rights of women.
Brundtland is the youngest person and first woman to become prime minister of Norway. During her first term she only served for nine months (because her party lost the elections held later that year). She returned as prime minister in 1986–89 and served again in 1990–96 until her resignation.
Brundtland tells: “During these years (as a prime minister), I learned all too well what it means to be a woman in a leadership position. I faced difficulties in terms of sexism and patronizing, and in efforts to demean me and weaken my impact.”
Brundtland never had fewer than 8 women in her 18-member cabinet and, overall, is credited with securing better educational and economic opportunities for women in Norway.
In 1983 she became chair of the UN World Commission on Environment and
Development, which in 1987 issued ’Our Common Future’ also known as the ’Brundtland report’, a report that introduced the idea of “sustainable development” and led to the first Earth Summit. Between 1998 and 2003, she served as the Director General of the WHO (World Health Organization) and is today a a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.