The Women’s March has announced March 8 will be the day without women. I freaked out when I first saw anything about this because I’d just been writing about the impact that the women’s strike had in Iceland in 1975.
This is from my chapter on Iceland, where the importance of this march was explained to me by the phenomenal Halla Tomasdottir, who ran for President in Iceland last summer (and almost won despite a prediction that she’d get 1% of the vote!):
“I thought it was a question of time because when I was seven, women took the day off in Iceland and they brought the country to its knees, so from 1975 people started saying, ‘OK, life doesn’t work in Iceland if women don’t show up to work.’”
That’s right: The year I was born, 90% of women across Iceland walked off the job and took to the streets. Something I couldn’t imagine even half of American women doing today, and bear in mind this was before social media made this kind of mass organization easier.
They were upset with the country’s inequality and wanted to send a strong message: The world didn’t work, if women didn’t work. They walked out whether their “job” was driving a bus or working at a bank or even taking care of newborns at home. For that day, Halla says, kids didn’t get fed, busses weren’t driven, banks didn’t get opened, schools didn’t open.
“Nothing worked, because 90% of women in Iceland did this,” she says. It took a year to organize the walk out. Some women’s husbands left them because they’d helped organize it.
But do you know what happened five years later? Iceland elected the first female president in the world, and she was a single mom. Halla puts it down to that women’s strike.
“I’m raised with women who have the courage to do that and we do change the world, because five years later we have that first female president,” she says. “She was not only a single mom, she was a breast cancer survivor. She was asked during her campaign, ‘What are you going to do as president? You’re a woman.’ Someone added, ‘You’re even half a woman’, because she’d had a mastectomy. She answered, ‘Well I was intending on leading the nation, not breastfeeding it.’ She took the high road and she won.
“This impacted me profoundly, and not just me, but the men of this generation. They thought it’s normal that a woman is president.”