“When the fourth president of the Icelandic republic was formally inaugurated at the Althing in Reykjavik on August 1, 1980, history was made in more ways than usual at such ceremonies previously. The new president is a woman, and not only the first woman to become president of Iceland, but the first woman in the world to be chosen as head of state in a free general election.” Thus began an article in Iceland Review in 1980, shortly after Vigdís Finnbogadóttir’s inauguration as the fourth president of the Icelandic Republic. Born on April 15, 1930, today marks her 90th birthday.
Before her presidency, Vigdís had a career as a French teacher and director of the National theatre. She announced her candidacy for the position on February 1, 1980, the first woman ever to do so, running against three men. In addition to being the only female candidate, she was also the only one who was single. Following a tight race, where much was made of her gender, single parenthood, and even her mammectomy following breast cancer, she was voted the next president of Iceland with 33.8% of the vote.
She was president for four four-year terms, until 1996. Both during her presidency and afterwards, she spent her energy championing causes close to her heart such as reforestation, culture, and languages.
Due to COVID-19, the birthday celebrations were subdued, but in an interview from her doorstep, Vigdís told RÚV she didn’t mind, she had never been too fond of birthdays. “I’m simply happy that it’s a sunny day and the snow is lifting”.
The Iceland Review team wishes Vigdís Finnbogadóttir a happy birthday.