The Iceland Expedition is happy to celebrate International Women’s Day 2020! Many women have contributed to scientific research and equal rights in Iceland, helping to make Iceland one of the most equal-opportunity nations in the world! In addition, the Iceland Expedition itself has been supported by many fantastic female members throughout its 12 years. Below are just a few of the many Icelandic women who have contributed to science and social justice:
Elsa Guðbjörg Vilmundardóttir (27 November 1932 – 23 April 2008) was the first Icelandic woman to complete a degree in geology and was the country’s first female geologist. Her work included the supervision of the uniform geological mapping of the country by the National Energy Authority and the geochemistry of prehistoric volcanic eruptions.
If your browser can translate from Icelandic, you can read more about Elsa here!
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the world’s first democratically elected female president. She served as president of Iceland for 16 years from 1980 – 1996, and is still the longest-serving elected female head of state of any country to date. Her work included promoting the care and support of Icelandic language and heritage, championing girls’ education, and advocating environmentalism through the reforestation of Iceland and fighting topsoil loss. Her other achievements include serving as the founding Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders (1996), the first Chair of the World Commission on Ethics in Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) at UNESCO in Paris from 1997 – 2001, and being nominated as a UN Goodwill Ambassador in the fight against Racism and Xenophobia in 2000.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister and the world’s first openly LGBT head of government on the 1st February 2009. Throughout her career she was a champion of many causes, beginning as an activist in the trade union movement early in her career, and during her term as prime minister her government banned strip clubs and made it illegal for any business to profit from the nudity of its employees after concerns that foreign women may have been trafficked to the country to work in the sex industry. She commented, “The Nordic countries are leading the way on women’s equality, recognising women as equal citizens rather than commodities for sale.”
Kristín Ingólfsdóttir is an Icelandic pharmaceutical scientist who served two terms as the former president and rector of the University of Iceland from 2005 to 2015. She was the first woman to hold office in the University’s 100-year history. Her research focuses on discovering natural products and identifying and isolating active pharmacological chemicals from lichens, mosses, and marine organisms. She also works to further education and healthcare through her roles as Chairman of the National University Hospital Advisory Board and as a member of the Board of the European Women Rectors’ Association. Read a more in-depth account of Kristín’s achievements here!
The Iceland Expedition is also grateful to have recieved help and advice from Ester Rut Unnsteinsdóttir of the Icelandic Institute of Natural History! Ester has done great work on Iceland’s arctic foxes, and her research has been vital for our project on the foxes at Skálanes. Find out more about Ester’s research here!