Women Around the World: Iceland

June 9, 2010 | Elizabeth

Last year, Iceland topped the list for the highest gender equality index, a study released by the World Economic Forum. In comparison, the U.S. ranked 31st out of 134 countries that were analyzed. The rankings were based on measuring the size of the gaps, gender equality rather than women’s empowerment, and the outcomes rather than the inputs put forth by the country.

So, is Iceland the perfect example for feminists, for those women that are trying to close the gender gap completely?

The first women’s organization was founded in Iceland in 1869. Interestingly enough, it was based on bringing the Industrial Revolution into the home, providing a sewing machine for the women in the area and introducing machines that would make the life of a homemaker a million times easier!

The first women’s association was founded in Iceland in 1874 and it focused on providing aid to the poor.

The first women’s rights organization was founded in Iceland in 1894 called the Icelandic Women’s Association.

Women’s suffrage grew to be an expansive movement in Iceland, using the power of the network of different works of women and the power of their positions in schools to gain the right to vote for unmarried women and widows who paid their taxes in 1882 and for married women in 1908. However, women over the age of 40 were the only ones granted the right to vote.

An excerpt from the Women’s Election Paper is an example of how the Icelandic women encouraged each other to vote, creating large and powerful petitions which led Iceland to grant so many rights for women:

“Women! Let us spread the word of what they [i.e. women’srepresentatives] have achieved, and bear in mind that there is stillplenty for women to do on the town council, especially in matters thatmen are less likely to notice … And yet people say that they have doneno good, and do no good. I know that women, mothers, must see andacknowledge the usefulness of all this.”

In the 1920s, a woman was elected in Parliament. A great accomplishment for a woman in the world at this time.

Today, proving through their place in the rankings, Iceland still holds gender equality as a top priority. The women have a real and powerful voice that they won’t let men forget. It’s pretty shocking to see what a change women were able to make in the early 1900s at this time in Iceland, when they were struggling so much everywhere else.

Thanks to Thomas for recommending the research of this country-very interesting!
For more information on Iceland:

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