Today is Women’s Rights Day

Today, June 19, is Women’s Rights Day in Iceland. The holiday commemorates the day, in 1915, when all Icelandic women aged 40 and older, were first given the right to vote in parliamentary elections and also run for parliament.

A brief history of women’s suffrage in Iceland

“As early as 1882, widows and women of independent means had received the right to vote in municipal elections, and in 1907, this right was extended to all women,” writes Stefan Jonasson, editor of Lögberg-Heimskringla. Alþingi voted to extend women’s voting and candidacy rights to parliamentary elections in 1911, but this was struck down—twice—by the Danish king, until Kristján X relented in 1915. Iceland became an independent state under the Danish crown in 1918, and two years later, all age and income restrictions were lifted, giving all Icelandic women equal voting rights in 1920.

Statue of Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason in front of Alþingi, Image by Anna Kudryavtseva (CC 3.0)

The Icelandic suffrage movement was driven by the Icelandic Women’s Association, which was founded in 1894, as well as the Women’s Rights Association, which was started by Kvennablaðið (‘The Women’s Paper’) founder Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir in 1907. Bríet and three fellow suffragettes were elected to the Reykjavík Town Council in 1908. Bríet held the seat until 1911 and then again from 1913 – 1919. She then became the first woman to run for parliament in 1916, but was not elected. Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason, the principal of Kvennaskólinn (‘The Women’s School’) became the first woman to hold a seat in Alþingi in 1922. A statue in her honour stands in front of parliament today.

Women’s Rights Day celebrations in Reykjavík this year

The celebrations will start at 11:00 AM in Hólavallagarður Cemetery with a musical performance by Una Torfadóttir. Afterwards, Vice President of the Reykjavík City Council Magnea Gná Jóhannsdóttir will deliver a speech and lay the wreath on Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir’s grave, in honour of her contributions to the suffrage movement.

Later in the day, Kvennaheimilið Hallveigarstaðir, which has served as the home for women’s organizations in the capital area since 1967, will celebrate its 55th anniversary. Guests are invited to join festivities at Túngata 14 from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Refreshments will be served and guest of honour Eliza Reid, First Lady of Iceland, will give a speech. Rakel Adolphsdóttir from the Women’s History Museum will give a short lecture on the history of the building and the event will be rounded out with a performance by the Hrynjandi Women’s Chorus.

Business Booming for Online Alcohol Retailers, Even Though Online Sales Aren’t Legal

Alþingi has yet to vote on whether private Icelandic retailers will be allowed to sell alcohol online, but RÚV reports that business is already booming for sellers willing to risk wading into this lucrative market before online sales are legalized.

Starting July 1, craft breweries will be allowed to sell alcohol on their premises. Alþingi voted in favour of this change on Wednesday. The bill to allow private retailers to sell alcohol online, however, was not voted on before the end of parliament’s session. But this hasn’t stopped Elías Blöndal Guðjónsson, co-owner of the online alcohol retailer Santewines SAS, from cashing in this holiday weekend. And not just this weekend, either: Like a small number of fellow sellers willing to take the risk before online sales are legalized, Santewines has been selling alcohol online for over a year and sales are increasing all the time.

See Also: Local Distributor Flouts Prohibitions on Home Beer Delivery

June 17th is Iceland’s National Day, so while people would normally be queuing in Vínbúð locations around the country to stock up on bevvies for the weekend, such wasn’t possible on Friday, when all state-run liquor store locations were closed. So many of these would-be customers hopped over to Elías’ website instead.

Elías said he isn’t worried about his operation being shut down, even though online alcohol sales haven’t been legalized yet. “We have all our ducks in a row and everything’s in order. We have a French company that is handling the online shop and legal products and we’re no more afraid than Amazon or EBay,” he remarked.

“I don’t actually think there are many people who have it out for the business,” Elías concluded. “Maybe ÁTVR [the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company, which runs Iceland’s Vínbúð stores], and maybe some Progressive Party MPs. […] The police were actually out here the other day, but they were just picking up an order.”