PRESIDENT OF ICELAND, 1980-1996
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the fourth President of Iceland, was the first woman in the world to be elected a constitutional Head of State.
“President Vigdís”, addressed on a first-name basis according to Icelandic tradition, was first elected in 1980 to a four-year term, winning the election against three male contenders.
In 1984 she was re-elected without opposing candidates. In 1988 she won the presidency for a third term, with ninety-two percent of the votes against a female candidate. President Vigdís was returned to office unopposed for her fourth term, in 1992. She left office in August 1996, having taken the decision not to stand again.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was born 1930 in Reykjavík, She studied at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris where she studied literature and drama as well as at the University of Iceland. She has majored in English and French literature (with theatre literature of these two languages as a main theme), and has a degree in education. In 1972-1980 she was the Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Theatre Company (Leikfélag Reykjavíkur), later the City Theatre. In 1976-1980 she was a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs in the Nordic countries (Chair from 1978-1980).
In her period of office President Vigdís devoted herself to the cultivation of the identity and integrity of the nation: its language, its individual and distinctive culture, and its youth. She is a champion of the current reforestation drive in Iceland, actively promoting the planting of trees in Iceland throughout her presidency, and has strongly supported the great task of land reclamation that is being done in the eroded areas of Iceland. The President takes a great interest in the children and youth of Iceland, in particular with regard to education. She is a founder, member and patron of the “Save the Children” Association (Barnaheill) in Iceland. She is a dedicated spokesman for human rights and upon leaving office she was made a lifetime honorary member of the Women´s Rights Association in Iceland.
President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been awarded the honorary distinction of Chancellerie des Universités de Paris, France (1983) and honorary doctorates at following Universities: University of Grenoble, France (1985), University of Bordeaux, France (1987), Smith College, USA (1988), Luther College, USA (1989), University of Manitoba, Canada (1989), University of Nottingham, UK (1990), University of Tampere, Finland (1990), University of Gothenburg, Sweden (1990), Gashuin University in Tokyo, Japan (1991), University of Miami, USA (1993), St. Mary´s University in Halifax, Canada (1996), University of Leeds, UK (1996), Memorial University, St John, Newfoundland, Canada (1997), University of Guelph, Canada (1998) and University of Iceland, 2000.
In 1996, former president Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was given the special Land Reclamation Award in Iceland. In Sweden she was the same year given the Socrates Award for stimulating with visible results youth to get acquainted with the culture and language in other Nordic countries to cement the Nordic ties for the future.
In1997 she received special recognition from the Icelandic Language Foundation for her active support of the Icelandic language during her time as President of Iceland. Also in 1997, President Vigdís was honoured with the Jakob Letterstedts Award for introducing abroad the Nordic cultural heritage and the Clara Lachmann-Price for going hand-in-hand with a new generation to seek the values of Nordic democracy and identity.
The same year (1997) the United Nations FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation) Ceres-medal was struck in Vigdís Finnbogadóttir´s honour "as an acknowledgement of her steadfast support for FAO´s fundamental aim of attaining global food security", for being "a staunch supporter of minority rights movements" and "an ardent champion of international cooperation in support of human rights".
In 1998 she received the "Selma Lagerlöf´s Mårbacka- Price” for following up the Nobel Price author´s ideals and care for the environment.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir is founding Chair of the recent Council of Women World Leaders (1996), with offices at the J.F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA. She was also the first Chair (1997-2001) of a newly established "World Commission on the Ethics in Scientific Knowledge and Techology" – COMEST- at the UNESO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) in Paris, emphasizing the ethics of energy, fresh water and the information society (1998). In November 1998 she was also nominated Goodwill-Ambassador of Languages at UNESCO, and in 2000 UN Goodwill Ambassador in the fight against Racism and Xenophobia.
In october 2001 The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages was established at the University of Iceland.