On October 24, 1975, the women of Iceland decided they would stop woman-ing in a massive protest for the same rights as men. On that day, known as Women’s Day Off, 90 percent of the country’s women refused to go to work or do chores or care for their children, to call for the same rights as men. The country came to a screeching halt.

“What happened that day was the first step for women’s emancipation in Iceland,” Vigdis Finnbogadottir said in an interview with the BBC. “It completely paralyzed the country and opened the eyes of many men.”

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The BBC reports:

Banks factories and some shops had to close, as did schools and nurseries—leaving many fathers with no choice but to take their children to work. There were reports of men arming themselves with sweets and colouring pencils to entertain the crowds of overexcited children in their workplaces. Sausages—easy to cook and popular with children—were in such demand the shops sold out.

It was a baptism of fire for some fathers, which may explain the other name the day has been given—the Long Friday.

In Reykjavik, around 25,000 women (an impressive fraction of the country’s 220,000 residents) gathered to hear speeches, sing songs of protest, and be, above all, a united front.

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“It was the real grassroots,” Elin Olafsdottir, who was 45 at the time, told The Guardian. “It was, in all seriousness, a quiet revolution.”

“There was a tremendous power in it all and a great feeling of solidarity and strength among all those women standing on the square in the sunshine,” Vigdis told the BBC.

And the protests had tremendous impact—just five years later, Vigdis became the country’s first female president, a position which she would hold for 16 years.

“Things went back to normal the next day, but with the knowledge that women are as well as men the pillars of society,” she recalled. “So many companies and institutions came to a halt and it showed the force and necessity of women—it completely changed the way of thinking.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.