Women's Rights Day 19 June

Icelandic women were among the first in the world to gain the right to vote, on June 19th in 1915. 

Women had been able to vote in local and parish elections since 1881, and in 1902 they became eligible for office in these bodies.  The extension of the franchise to women was approved by Parliament in 1911, but twice denied royal ( The danish king) assent !  before finally being approved in 1915. 

The Women's Rights Association together with several women's societies in Reykjavik arranged a celebration of this momentous step forward on July 7.th 1915. Thousands of women in their finest clothes paraded through the streets of Reykjavik with marching band to Parliament House, were a delegation of ladies was admitted to address the assembly, and was greeted with four cheers from the men of Parliament. The first woman member was elected to Alþingi in 1922.

June 19.th was marked by the Women's Rights Association as a special festival each year from 1916. The Association was at this period campaigning to raise money for a National Hospital, and June 19th was an occasion for fund raising for this purpose. The day was sometimes called " Landspítalasjóðsdagurinn" . The National Hospital ( Landspítalinn) became a reality and women's Rights Day gradually lost prominence for a time anyway……. 

Modern feminist movement's, which developed in the 1970's and 80's were disconnected from the old Women's Rights Association and more closely associated with radical politics.  Resent years, June 19th has been reestablished as an occasion for women's celebrations, and for debate on feminist issues. 

( Source: " High Days and Holidays in Iceland" - Árni Björnsson -  Forlagið 1995)

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