From Iceland — Ask An Historian: The Legacy Of Iceland's Red Stocking Women

Ask An Historian: The Legacy Of Iceland’s Red Stocking Women

Published April 30, 2020

Ask An Historian: The Legacy Of Iceland’s Red Stocking Women
Poppy Askham
Photo by
Art Bicnick

We asked Ragnhildur Hólmgeirsdóttir from Iceland’s Women’s History Archives to fill us in on the legacy of some of Iceland’s feistiest feminists.

“On May 1st, 1970, the Icelandic Red Stocking Women made their first public appearance, marching through the streets and carrying a statue of a woman with the slogan: ‘Human being – not a marketing product.’

“The vision of the Red Stocking Movement was radical and some of their goals are still relevant in today’s struggle for equality. One of their main goals was the right to abortion. A Red Stockings member sat on the parliamentary committee for new legislation concerning abortion and contraceptives in 1973. Their proposal sparked a heated debate, but was turned down for a more conservative law, which was not replaced until 2019.

“The Red Stockings also campaigned for equal rights in the workplace, focusing on universal access to kindergarten education and whole-day school attendance. Their vision did not become a reality until the 1990s and there is still progress to be made.

“The Red Stockings had an artistic, energetic approach to their cause and their public protests frequently caught the press’ attention. In one famous example of this, they brought a live cow to a 1972 beauty contest. Partly thanks to this protest, beauty contests were temporarily halted in Iceland.

“Finally, I must mention the Women’s Day Off in 1975. This mass event was a joint effort by several women’s organizations, but the idea first started circulating in the Red Stockings’ meetings in 1970. The Women’s Day Off was most recently repeated in 2018.”

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