Vigdís Finnbogadóttir

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This is an Icelandic name. The last name is a patronymic, not a family name; this person is properly referred to by the given name Vigdís.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Vigdis Finnbogadottir (1985).jpg
4th President of Iceland
In office
1 August 1980 – 1 August 1996
Prime Minister Gunnar Thoroddsen
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Steingrímur Hermannsson
Davíð Oddsson
Preceded by Kristján Eldjárn
Succeeded by Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Personal details
Born (1930-04-15) 15 April 1930 (age 84)
Reykjavík, Kingdom of Iceland
Alma mater University of Paris
University of Grenoble
University of Copenhagen
University of Iceland
Profession Teacher
Theatre director

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir [ˈvɪɣtis ˈfɪn.pɔɣaˌtoʊhtɪr] ( ) (born 15 April 1930) is an Icelandic politician who served as the fourth President of Iceland from 1980 to 1996. In addition to being both Iceland and Europe's first female president, she was the world's first democratically elected female head of state.[1] With a presidency of exactly sixteen years, she also remains the longest-serving, elected female head of state of any country to date. Currently, she is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, and a Member of the Club of Madrid.[2]

Early life[edit]

Coat of Arms of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir as president of Iceland.

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was born in Reykjavík on 15 April 1930. Her father, Finnbogi Rútur Þorvaldsson, was a civil engineer, as well as a professor at the University of Iceland. Her mother, Sigríður Eiríksdóttir, was a nurse and the chairperson of the Icelandic Nurses Association. After passing her matriculation exam in 1949, Vigdís studied French and French literature at the University of Grenoble and the Sorbonne in Paris from 1949 to 1953, then studied the history of theater at the University of Copenhagen. She then acquired a BA in French and English, as well as PGCE, at the University of Iceland.

Vigdís participated in the 1960s and 1970s in numerous rallies held to protest against the U.S. military presence in Iceland (and in particular at Keflavík). Every year hundreds—sometimes thousands—walked the 50-km road to Keflavík and chanted "Ísland úr NATO, herinn burt" (literally: Iceland out of NATO, the military away).

Artistic and academic career[edit]

Vigdís worked with the Reykjavík Theatre Company from 1954 to 1957 and again from 1961 to 1964. During the summers, she also worked as a tour guide. Vigdís taught French at Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík 1962–67 and at Menntaskólinn við Hamrahlíð from 1967 to 1972. She also taught for a while at University of Iceland, as well as holding French courses on RÚV, the Icelandic state television.

She was the Artistic Director of the Reykjavík Theatre Company (Leikfélag Reykjavíkur), later the City Theatre from 1972 to 1980. From 1976 to 1980, she was a member of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs in the Nordic countries.

In 1996 she became founding chair of the Council of Women World Leaders at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Two years later she was appointed president of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology.

President of Iceland[edit]

In 1980 she was the first woman in the world to be elected as head of state in a democratic election, despite being a divorced single mother (she adopted a daughter in 1972). Vigdís had been drafted as a candidate for the presidency of Iceland; she was narrowly elected, with 33.6 percent of the national vote, over three male opponents. She was subsequently reelected three times, unopposed in 1984 and 1992, but with about 95% of the votes cast in 1988. She retired in 1996. Although the Icelandic presidency is largely a ceremonial position, she took an active role as a cultural ambassador in promoting the country, and enjoyed great popularity.

In 1993 the work Mitt Folk commissioned by the British government by Oliver Kentish was dedicated to her as a gift from Britain to Iceland celebrating the 50th anniversary of the republic.[3]


Since 1998, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir has been UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador for languages.

She is also a member of the Fondation Chirac's honour committee,[4] ever since the foundation was launched in 2008 by former French president Jacques Chirac in order to promote world peace.


National Honours[edit]

Foreign Honours[edit]

Honorary degrees[edit]

She has received honorary degrees from the following Universities:

Vigdís is a member of the Club of Madrid,[9] an independent non-profit organization composed of 81 democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries.


  1. ^ "Club of Madrid: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir". Club of Madrid. 2003. Retrieved 19 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "Club of Madrid: Full Members". Club of Madrid. 2003. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2008. 
  3. ^ "Cadenza Musicians Directory". Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  4. ^ Fondation Chirac's honour committee
  5. ^ Icelandese Presidency Website
  6. ^ State visit, 1994, Photo of Beatrix, Claus and Icelandese President
  7. ^ "President Vigdis blir æresdoktor ved UNIT". Aftenposten. 1993. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  8. ^ October 1993 "Æresdoktor Vigdis talte i historisk by". Aftenposten. 1993. Retrieved 2 August 2010. 
  9. ^ The Club of Madrid is an independent non-profit organization composed of 81 democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries. It constitutes the world's largest forum of former Heads of State and Government, who have come together to respond to a growing demand for support among leaders in democratic leadership, governance, crisis and post-crisis situations. All lines of work share the common goal of building functional and inclusive societies, in which the leadership experience of the members is most valuable.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kristján Eldjárn
President of Iceland
Succeeded by
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson