Women’s Day Off

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It’s not easy to accept that our world is a figment of our imagination. Living in a world made up of our collective thoughts makes me feel insignificant. But that’s the wrong way to look at it. The right thoughts lead to a better future for all and everything. Pessimism is apathy, and optimism is the courage to hope. 

One of my hopes, I have many, is that women claim their space in roles of influence and move us away from endless wars and greed. Women near and far continue to express this sentiment. In June (2022), Rep Liz Cheney, in a speech at the Reagan Library, said, “Let me also say this to the little girls and the young women who are watching tonight: these days, for the most part, men are running the world, and it is really not going that well.” read more.

Most women have an innate desire to nurture. Feeding what’s worthy feeds us back. Hope is a nutrient that fuels the best in us. Rep Pramila Jayapal suggested women go on strike in response to the Supreme Court’s Roe vs Wade decision. Striking, I wondered, how could that vault women to leadership roles? read more.

Half a century ago, the United Nations proclaimed 1975 as the Women’s Year. Icelandic women took the declaration to heart. Together, representatives from five of the biggest women’s organizations in the land organized to make the most of the moment.  

The most radical of the groups was called The Red Stockings. They proposed women go on a one-day strike to demonstrate their actual value. Tired of getting paid less than men and being underrepresented in Parliament, the rest of the women consented. They would call it “Women’s Day Off” (Kvennafri) instead of “a strike.” They reasoned that an employer might fire a woman for striking but unlikely to deny them a day off. 

Vigdis Finnbogadottir

Among the thousands of women who assembled in Reykjavik were a divorcee, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, her mother, and her 3-year-old-daughter. It was a massive turnout (90% of Iceland’s women) for the tiny island by the Arctic Circle.

Grouping together, women sang, drank coffee, likely smoked incessantly, listened to speeches, and talked about a more hopeful future. The telephone service came to a standstill. Newspapers closed, theaters canceled performances, and schoolchildren were sent home. The national airline canceled flights, banks remained open with executives staffing the counters. Some fathers couldn’t go to work. Others took the kids with them, buying them sweets, crayons and coloring books to keep them occupied. For exhausted fathers, it had been a day of awakening. Later, they’d refer to “Women’s Day Off” as the long Friday

Adalheidur Bjarnfredsdottir, representing the trade union for the lowest paid women in Iceland (my mother, a fish factory worker, was one of them), made her first public speech on this day. “Men have governed the world since ancient times, and what has the world been like?” She answered herself by describing a world soaked in blood and polluted to the point of ruin. A description that seems truer now than ever.

“The world needs strong women—women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved, women who live bravely, both tender and fierce, women of indomitable will.”

Amy Tenney, an attorney and music therapist

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir insists that the “Women’s Day Off” on October 24, 1975, led to her becoming the first woman in the world to be a democratically elected president. She served in this role from 1980 to 1996, when she retired. She is the longest-serving elected female head of state in the world. read more.

In 2018, Iceland became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women for doing the same job, an inequality that still exists in almost every other country. For nine consecutive years, the World Economic Forum ranked Iceland as the world’s most gender-equal county. By 2015, 44% of boardroom executives in Iceland were female. Even with all this progress, Icelandic women have more work ahead of them.  read more.

The Barbie Inspiring Women Series injects feminist power into kids’ playtimes by showcasing heroines from various fields. Goodall joins Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, and Billie Jean King, amongst others.

the Insider

Womenfolks are the younger generation’s best hope for their future. Women working together can change the world for the better—learn to trust one another and work together.