Jus Suffragii



Jus Suffragii var gefið út af alþjóðakosningaréttarsamtökin The International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) voru stofnuð í Washington árið 1902. Blaðið kom fyrst út árið 1906. Hér að neðan má finna umfjallanir um Ísland sem hafa birst í blaðinu, ýmist hefur efnið verið sent til þeirra af fulltrúa Kvenréttindafélags Íslands eða þá verið tekið saman af fréttariturum blaðsins.

15. október 1908

From Kvindestemmerets bladet, Mrs. Münter's paper, which appears in Copenhagen, we learn that Fru Briet Asmundsson has not been able to attend the Amsterdam congress, because she had to go on a propaganda-tour all through the isle of Iceland. This journey took her two months, during which time she gave twelve lectures and established five women's asoociations in the provincial towns.

The women's association in Reykjavik is going to establish a reading room, for which Mrs. Münther sollicits litterature and contributions, to be sent to Fru Briet Bjarnhedinsdottir Asmundsson.


15. nóvember, 1908 

The Icelandic Women's Suffrage Association, that was founded in Reykjavik on the 27th Jan. 1907, was hitherto limited to that town. Represented by its president, Fru Bríet Bjarnhédinsdóttir Ásmundsson, the Association has tried last summer to establish branches all over the island. The population living very dispersedly, there are, except the capital, only Akureyri, Seydisfjördur and Isafjördur, that might be called small towns. In the two first-named places, Mrs. Asmundsson succeeded in founding branches with regular committees. In Isafjördur the burgomaster's wife promised to constitute a committee and in two other still smaller places, Blonduos and Saudarkrokur there were influential ladies who gave the same promise. When the summer is over, it is rather difficult to travel in Iceland, so the new branches must be left to themselves, the more so as mail arrives often with a month's interval. In the meantime the Association in Reykjavík prepares a reorganisation as "Iceland's National Woman Suffrage Association" and intends to request affiliation to the International Women Suffrage Alliance at the approaching London congress.

Alkmaar, Oct. 27, 1908, E.V.D. Hoeven

1. október, 1913

Few events of the Buda Pesth congress charmed the delegates more than the news brought by Fru Asmundsson and her daughter, that the Icelandic government had paid the expenses of the delegates to the Woman Suffrage Congress, and that in order to defray these expenses Iceland voluntarily sacrificed one mail this year.
We hear now that the Althing has passed the amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote on equal terms with men. This amendment was passed in 1911, and is now voted therefore for the second time, which is necessary for any alteration of the constitution. The Bill must now be referred to the King of Denmark for his approval, which is unlikely to be witheld.

1. október, 1913
s. 37-38

The last sitting of the Althing, which took place from the 1st of July to the 14th of September this year, passed a new Constitutional Bill. This Bill is very much altered from that of 1911. According to this new Bill, every man and woman who is 25 years old is to get the vote—but with the limitation that the first voting after the Bill has become law only those of the new voters (women and domesticated servants) who are 40 years old vote. Next year the age limit is 39 years, and so on till the minimum of 25 is reached.
Of course we women are not at all satisfied with this conclusion. We consider it unjust and unequal. Most men have got married and are in an independent position at 4o, and have not to wait so long to get enfranchised. But a woman, who perhaps pays as high taxes as most men, or is a great employer, does not get the Suffrage before she is 40 years old, merely because she is a woman. Against this we have protested. But if the Bill gets sanctioned at an extraordinary assembly of the Althing next summer, and then is signed by the King, we have, in fact, got the vote for every woman of 25 years, and only have to wait for it for 7½ years.
This will be done as a telegram from Copenhagen ascertained. A dissolution of the Althing is to take place, and then a new election in April, 1914.
We had not expected that the Bill was to be moved. The Minister and many of the foremost members of the Althing had said that it would not be brought forward in this session as a Government Bill. Instead, it was carried, referred to a Committee, and in a short time passed as law by the Althing.
If the Althing and the King consent to the Bill unaltered, in 1914 another election will take place, and then the new voters will have to give their vote—we women for the first time.

Briet Asmundsson.

The Icelandic women saw long ago that the economic aspect of the women's movement was the one that most people understand, because it has been pointed out so strongly in the agitation. Is is also natural, as the difference in the wages of working people is so great, that women often get only one-third of what the men get for the same work. There have also been so many obstacles preventing women from getting more remunerative employment, although there are no laws forbidding this.
In Iceland the last 37 years have been a time of renaissance and continuous progress. During that time the position of women has been bettered in many ways. The pay of working women has been tripled, working hours have been shortened, and the treatment of working people is, on the whole, much better now than formerly.
But in Iceland, as everywhere else, the requirements have changed so much that the women are not better off now with the higher pay than they were 30 years ago, when they only got half of what they are getting now. The fields of employment for women are becoming wider. According to the statistics of December 1st this year, more women than men work as school teachers in Iceland. The education of the common people is being reformed; formerly children were mostly taught at home, but now education is compulsory for children from 10 to 14 years, during which time the children can attend the public schools free of charge. There are 148 women teaching in those schools, with the same salary as the men, but as yet very few women are head teachers of schools.
Still, there is no rule without exception. Last winter the married men teachers of the public children's school in Reykjavik applied for higher salaries, which they received, but as yet the salaries of women teachers remain the same.
About 35 girls work as telegraph and telephone operators, but receive much lower salaries than the men. This is, however, not the fault of the law, but in this case Iceland is adopting the custom of its neighbour countries. A great many women are dressmakers, farmers, and merchants. In 1900 there were 204 women farmers, most of whom were widows, as they inherit the tenant right from their late husbands. In 1900, 148 women managed farms which were their own properties. All widows have the right to retain undivided possession of the estate of their late husbands if the children are not of age, and provided the estate is not too heavily mortaged.
Besides the above-mentioned, six women are independent owners of fishing vessels and trawl boats.
Twenty years ago there were no women shopkeepers, but in 1910 23 women carried on their own shops, and 150 girls were shop assistans and clerks, and this last year a few women have got positions as bank clerks.
The Icelandic women have not done so much social work as women in other countries as there is not so much scope for them here in that respect. For instance, all poor children and old and infirm people are cared for by the respective parishes, where they are placed with the different householders, and as often than not treated as well as the members of the family.
However, women are now gradually becoming members of Town Councils, County Councils, Parish Councils, and School Boards.
There are no women in Government offices, as no Icelandic woman has, as yet, taken a University degree. It is only nine years since girls were allowed to attend the gymnasium (advanced secondary school). But since the law from 1911, which grants women the right to enter Government offices, came into force, the number of girls in this school has very much increased. Two women are studying for a degree as doctors.
As women are allowed to become clergy in this country, it is not unlikely that Iceland will have the honour of being the first country in Europe where women preach, not as guests in a church, but as ministers.

1. desember, 1913

Mrs. Briet Asmundsson writes to correct the report that Iceland sacrificed a mail, in order to pay the expenses of the Icelandic delegates to Budapest. The cost was defrayed by supplementary estimates. We regret to have given currency to the picturesque legend of the mail, but were following the announcement made at Budapest. This was apparantly due to an incorrect translation. The Icelandic government promised the grant, and was criticised by the Reykjavik newspaper, which said the money would be better employed on an extra mail. The government, however, gave preference to the Women's Suffrage delegation over the hypothetical extra mail.

1. nóvember, 1915

The Women's Day

The 19th of June will be a red-letter day in the history of the women's movement in Iceland. On that day the King of Denmark signed our new Constitution, which made women free citizens, entitled to partake in the legislation of our country. The Icelandic Women's Rights Association and the Icelandic Women's Association, which also had women's suffrage on its platform, jointly invited all the women's associations in Reykjavik to partake in celebrating the 7th of July, when the opening of the Althing was to take place.
The presidents of ten women's associations met, together with the boards of the above-mentioned Societies, and it was carried unanimously: 1) To get up a procession of women to go to the House of Parliament, where an outdoor meeting should be held; 2) to collect money all over the country to make a fund for the benefit of a national hospital in Reykjavik, and to raise a movement for this cause. The demand for a national hospital is getting more pressing day by day, the only hospital in Reykjavik being a foreign and a catholic institution.
The 7th of July was bright and sunny, and we all felt happy and proud when we gathered in the first procession of women ever seen in Iceland, headed by a band and two hundred little girls, each carrying our new Icelandic flag, won on the same day as the Suffrage. Then followed the deputation, headed by Mrs. Briet Asmundsson, president of Iceland's Women's Rights Association, and Miss Ingibjorg Bjarnason, vice-president of the Icelandic Women's Association, and behind them many hundreds of women—young and old, rich and poor, side by side,—some of them in our picturesque festival costume. All shops were shut, and most employers gave their work-women a holiday. The square outside the Parliament building was decorated with flags and festoons, and here the procession waited while the deputation was received by the Althing. Miss I. Bjarnason read the address, and the Minister of the Althing and the Chairman expressed the thanks of the Althing. When the deputation came out the address and the telegram to the King were read to the crowd assembled, whereupon a song, written for the occasion, was sung. Then Mrs. Briet Asmundsson gave a speech, giving the thanks of the women to the politicians, who had been the chief supporters of the cause; Skuli Thododdsen, the editor of Þjóðviljinn, who was the pioneer in th Althing; Hannes Hafstein, the former Minister, who had proposed a Bill granting women the right to all Government offices; and the present Minister, who had succeeded in carrying the Constitution through many difficulties, also spoke. Miss I. Bjarnason gave a speech for Iceland, and then another song was sung.
In the evening there was a feast in the largest banqueting hall in Reykjavik, which was festively decorated. Many speeches were delivered, and all agreed that "the women's day" had been a great success.

Laufey Asmundsson, Women's Rights Association

1. október, 1916

Iceland, First Election with Women Voters.

Mrs. Briet Asmundsson, President of the affiliated Association in Iceland, writes from Reykjavik on August 23d: "On the 5th of August last took place the first political election at which both men and women had the right to vote according to the new Constitution of 19th June, 1915. The election was a proportional one to elect six members to the Upper House for a period of twelve years to come, instead of six members who were formerly chosen by the Crown. Six lists of candidates were drawn up, and I was number four on one of them, being the only woman candidate. The result is not out yet, as the polls are to be opened here in Reykjavik, and it takes a long time to get them sent here from all over the country, but we shall know the result about the middle of September."
We have since learnt that Mrs Asmundsson's list received by far the greatest number of votes, and, although not elected, she was next below the successful candidates. The more important election for the Lower House is to be held this month, when a number of women candidates are standing.

1. september, 1918 

Iceland. The Third Anniversary of Women's Admission to the Franchise.

On June 19th the women of Iceland celebrated the third anniversary of their rights as parliamentary voters.
Mrs. Briet Bjarnhjedinsdottir addressed a large gathering from the balcony of the Parliament House, in Reykjavik. Among the crowd many members of Parliament were seen, and the male sex was well presented. Her speech was printed in extenso in some of the daily papers.
The speaker gave figures as to the last elections. At the national elections (for the Upper House) in the summer of 1916 there were 24,000 voters on the register. Of these about 12,000 were women. For these elections men cannot vote till 35 years of age, women at 40, but for each election one year is taken off the women's voting age till the age is equal for the sexes. Of the 12,000 women qualified to vote only 1,245 cast a vote, or about 10 per cent.; of the 12,000 men 4,628, or about 38 per cent., voted. 
At the elections by local constituencies (for the Lower House) the men's age of qualification is 25, and the women's at present 40, diminishing a year after each election until equality is reached. There were 12,177 women on the register at the autumn elections, 1916, and 16,321 men. Out of the twelve thousand women voters 3,427 cast a vote; of the men 10,600 voted.
Taking into account the rough weather, the long distances to be travelled on horseback to the voting centres, and the reluctance of the average housewife to leaving her home in other hands even for a day or two, the net result of the Icelandic elections is promising.

Reform advocated by women.
Mrs. Briet vigorously exhorted the women in her audience to make full use of the vote next time, and strive to carry through the schemes they have set themselves. The first of these is a much-needed national hospital, to be run by the State, for which women have already collected £3,000 towards the cost of the building. Further items on the women's programme include old-age pensions, schools for domestic crafts and hygiene, and the like.
The assembly presently moved to the sports grounds, where it was addressed by an M.P. of the ultra-national party, who called for their support in the matter of the flag and the national claims, knowing that women were ever keen in matters touching national pride and honour.

The status of Icelandic women.
It is a welcome sign of the times to have and M.P. angling for female voters, and sweet is the music of M.P.'s prayers to a suffragist's ears.
But in Iceland it is a less revolutionary thought than elsewhere, for Norse women have ever held proud place as compared with women of the rest of Europe, and have always been on a footing of equality with their men. Such laws as, for instance, the marriage laws which still disgrace Great Britain are unknown to them, and if in the Viking age a man slighted his wife, she could divorce him by a declaration and depart with her goods, free to re-marry if she chose.
Women in Iceland, when going in for professions, have met nothing but encouragement from male colleagues, and they look with astonishment on the hard struggle of English women against the powers which still would bar them from equality with men.
A man's ideal in Iceland never was the insipid clinging female, but a woman of brains and vigour. I even think that the modern Icelander would rather like to see his wife in the pulpit, but although the clerical profession is open to women, none has hitherto sought office.
It may seem odd that the views of men out in that lone island should be so advanced. The real reason is that their views never deteriorated so far as elsewhere. The ideal still is the Valkyrie.
Women's papers recently arrived from Iceland are full of warm praise and admiration of the splendid achievement of English suffragists, who have carried their point in the face of such obstacles as the stubborn resistance engineered by the opponents of enfranchisement of women in England.

Meeting of the suffrage union.
At a recent meeting of the Union of Women's Societies in Reykjavik a committee was formed with the object of finding the best means of enforcing equal pay for equal work, as regards men and women workers.
With the indomitable Mrs. Briet leading, it will be interesting to learn what means the committee recommends for the enforcement of equal pay for equal work—a matter which has now become the burning question in all countries.
Afterwards they had a lively and amusing discussion about the desirable term of address for women, resulting in an agreement about Mistress or Madam as the title of all adult females. I have often wondered why most women seem to want to appear married. I think it is the title that draws them. Think how different it sound when a cabby says "Madam", instead of "´Ere, Miss!"

Presentation to Mrs. Magnusson.
The Icelandic Women's Union presented an address and a gift of honour a very noted advocate of the cause and pioneer in all movements for women's progress, Mrs. Katrin Magnusson, on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday. She initiated the petition requesting votes for women, and worked for signatures till it had reached 13,000 names. This lady is the wife of an eminent surgeon, and in earlier days, when means of nursing were primitive, it was only his wife's skill and unsparing devotion to the patients that made Dr. Magnusson's big operations possible.
Mrs. Magnusson has the gift of farimindedness and sweet reasonableness to a degree that makes her equally appreciated by men and by women, and she was for eight years consecutively re-elected town councillor—a great compliment that, as I am told that councillors change rather often in Reykjavik.

Dr. Claessen's lecture on the treatment of infants.
At the June meeting of the Iceland Women's Society, Dr. Claessen gave a lecture on treatment of infants, which seemed to the members so good that they propose to have it reprinted and distributed. One of the doctor's points is that he appeals to mothers not to try to force the child's intellect, not to worry it with too much "ducky-ducky" to get it to smile.

London, August 20th, 1918.
Kristin Blount

September, 1919

Women's work in war time.

Though Iceland has had little communication with the outside world during war time, the women there have been taking the initiative in social reforms, as the following, quoted from a letter to the editor of the Norwegian paper, Nylande, shows:—

The women of North Iceland have had a council since 1914, with yearly meetings, and the two last years with a journal which presses forward the organisation.
Reykjavik has also a council for many of its unions, and works for a children's home and a women's institution; moreover, all the women of Iceland, since 19th June, 1915, have collected for a hospital for the whole country in Reykjavik, which is to be built as soon as we can get the materials.
Our council in Nordland is working at collecting funds for a tuberculosis sanatortium for North Iceland, or a tuberculosis home, whichever of the two is the best. There is such a one in South Iceland, but it is difficult and expensive to send patients there, also it is getting too small for our needs.

Febrúar, 1923


The women's rights movement has really grown strong here, and the best proof of this is the fact that the woman candidate, on an independent list, supported by women, was elected this summer as one of the three candidates that were elected then as members of our Upper House. The women did very little for this list—they did not go to country meetings, except in the neighbourhood of Reikjavik; they had little money, and no motor cars on the polling day. So the old members of the Women's Rights Association felt that the good result of the election was really the fruit of their work through many years.
... The women here are beginning to use their vote, and hardly a single voice is to be heard from a woman who does not appreciate it, and they would not lose it for anything. We also feel that our dear men are never quite loyal to the women of their party; there are always some honoured men leaders to be found, who are nearer, to get the best seats on the list than a woman. The hopeless seats they are always willing to give to us! The women are beginning to understand this.
The Women's Rights Association is just now sending invitations to women all over the country to come to a meeting in Reikjavik in June. It should be a kind of "congress" with discussions, lectures and social gatherings and sight-seeing. We also offer hospitality to those that require it. We are hoping through this to strengthen our movement.

B. Asmundsson

Mars, 1926


The following extracts from letters recently received from Miss Asmundsson, of Iceland, contain an interesting account of the important work being done there:— 

Just now we are preparing an electoral campaign. In July there are to be elections to the Upper House of our Parliament. Only three members are to be elected for a period of eight years. We are going to have a non-partisan women's list as this is the only chance of having a woman elected.
The candidates of our list are:
1. Mrs. Briet Asmundsson, president of Kvenréttindafélag Islands (veteran suffragist).
2. Mrs. Guðrún Lárusdóttir.
3. Miss Halldóra Bjarnadóttir.
4. Mrs. Aðalbjörg Sigurðardóttir.
In case the first candidate were elected, Mrs. Guðrún Lárusdóttir would be an alternate. She is a very able woman, has been a member of our city council and has for many years worked on the Board of Guardians. Further she has, together with her husband, taken the initiative to found a home for old people in Reykjavík which was much needed and is very popular. The necessary money was collected by gifts, but the commune also supports the home. Sha has also been one of the leaders of the Young Women's Christian Society. The two other ladies have no chance of being elected but are merely supporting the list with their names. Miss Halldóra, by appointment of the Parliament, is a travelling adviser of the Association of Handicraft. Mrs. Aðalbjörg Sigurðardóttir is the president of the Theosophic Society "Star of the East" here.
In June, together with the women's organisations of Northern Iceland, we are helping to arrange a national congress of women, which will take place in Akureyri, in the north of Iceland. The women here are inviting delegates from all parts of the country. We took the initiative by convening a similar congress three years ago; now we hope to strengthen our organisation. When we obtained the Parliamentary suffrage our branches were dissolved and it is difficult to form new ones, but at the congress in June we are going to propose that every women's organisation should have a permanent committee of at least three women for the purpose of furthering the aims of the Alliance; working together for such causes as are chiefly of interest to women and using their united efforts to have women elected to all bodies on which they are entitled to sit.
A limited company has been formed to start a centre for women's association in Reykjavík. It is to be a home for homeless girls and for lonely nld women; we want also to have a good and cheap restaurant and a school of housekeeping. Parliament has given us the ground and we hope it will be finished in 1930, when we are going to celebrate the 1,000 years anniversary of our parliament.
In Siglufjörður, the chief place for herring fishery, the women are building a house which is to be a home for their association and also a clubhouse for the working girls (fish curers) who come there in great numbers during the herring season. There are to be a reading room, workroom with sewing machines, etc.
You understand that we have got many of the rights which women are still fighting for in many countries. We have universal suffrage, the right to all offices and professions—nominally women can be Bishops. As far as I know we were the second of the Scandinavian countries to pass the new marriage law, which is very progressive. An illegitimate child, recognised by the father, gets support from the father according to his means and inherits his property like a legitimate child. If the father has not willingly recognised the child, but has by decree of court been found to be the father, the child has the same right to support but does not inherit. The law is still more progressive than the Norwegian one, as there is, for instance, no exception forbidding an illegitimate child the right to inherit an estate. La recherche de la paternité is, of course, allowed, but the mother is not compelled to tell who is the father provided she is able to support the child herself.
Our moral legislation is equal between the sexes. Last year a new law was passed concerning veneral disease, including compulsory notification. I fear this may be doing harm, but we knew too little about how it had worked in other countries to feel able to make a protest, as the doctors recommended it.

Júlí, 1928


The Women's Right's Association is organising a campaign for widow's pensions. It has enlisted the support of all the women's organisations in Reykjavik, viz: The Women's Association (Social Work), The Circle (specially interested in health work), the White Ribbon (temperance, the Y.W.C.A., the Association of Free Church Women, the Association of Women for Missions to the Heathen, "Progress" (trade union), the Association of Nurses, the Association of Midwives, the Friends of Children (men and women), the National Council of Women, and "Mercy". It is now trying to get together the women's societies in other parts. Miss Asmundsson has given a lecture on the question which has been reprinted as a leaflet and is being widely distibuted. It will be accompanied by a questionnaire for the collection of statistics and definite information as to the present position of widows; such questions as: how long they have had to support children, how many, what work the children do, what their school standard is, whether the mothers go out to work and if so what arrangements they make for the care of the children, health matters, etc., etc. On the information thus obtained the Association will prepare a Bill to lay before Parliament, and they want it to give the same right to all widowed mothers, and also for wives whose husbands cannot work. The problem is specially urgent in Iceland where so many of the men are fishermen with a terrible mortality rate from accidents at sea.
Although the women's organisations have often in the past united with others for some special work, this is the first time that they have all united.
The Women's Rights Association also carried out very successful women's congresses, of which the next is to be in 1930. The last in 1926 was very successful and resulted in arousing interest all over the country, and in the formation of some standing committees which have undertaken useful parliamentary work. These particulars are taken from a letter from Miss Asmundsson to Mrs. Ashby and do indeed, as she says, prove that their little society is far from inactive.

Febrúar, 1929


Some time ago we published extracts from a letter from Miss Asmundsson giving details of the very active campaign undertaken in Iceland by women's organisations for widow's penions. We are now able to give further particulars:

"Our work for Widow's Pensions is slowly progressing and meets with much sympathy everywhere. We have sent the questionnaire and little pamphlet to all the town and communes—to about 250 women—and we have to keep in touch with all of them, reply to their letters and give them information, etc. We are beginning to get the replies, many of which are very interesting, and give, I believe, a unique picture of the position of destitute widows in Iceland, and of the life here of women in general. I got one letter from a woman who said: "I must say that during the last 20 years there has not been in this district any poor widow who has had to bring up her children alone (without support from relations, I suppose); no divorced or deserted wives, and there is not to be found a single illegtimate child." She adds, however, that there is nevertheless great sympathy for this just cause among the women, and the men too, as they realise that responsibility rests with both sexes. The district is very isolated because of dangerous rivers and lack of harbours. But the people are uncommonly healthy, both mentally and physically, and in the most isolated districts of Iceland the greater part of the farms have electricity for home use, heating, lighting, cooking, and for driving small motors for the churn, the separator, etc. And what is most remarkable, the farmers have installed this themselves at a comparatively small cost.
Now, after the New Year, we are going to start the campaign in Reykjavik. We are going to hold a big meeting and distribute our literature. From the report on the status of unmarried mothers, I want to show the difference between the contribution to the maintenance of the child made by the mother and that made by the father. We also want to start a little advisory centre for women. We think that they might be moved to tell their troubles to members of their own sex, and that we should try to get legal advice from women lawyers. We could begin by getting the women to give us information about widows, and then we could make this little office the centre of our activities and gradually extend our work to giving advice to women on various matters. If it proved that the women availed themselves of the services of such a centre, we feel sure we could get support from the municipality.
We have no hope of being able to introduce the Widow's Pension Bill during the coming session of the Althing in February, but we hope to have finished our preparations before the opening of Parliment on 1930—the great year celebrating the millennium of our Althing, which was established in 930 and has continued ever since but for an interval of some 40 years at the beginning of the 19th century. I think the general idea will get the support of members of all parties, my only fear is that they will fix the amount so low that it will be enough "neiter to live nor die on", as we say in Iceland. Therefore the women must stand together and be able to prove the necessity of an adequate allowance.
You may be interested to hear that my mother received the Icelandic Order of the Falcon on December 1st. Other women have received this order, but is is felt that they did so for the most part on account of party or family connections. Public opinion has found that women should get this distinction on their own merits, and everybody seems pleased that my mother has received it as the pioneer of the Suffrage Movement.
We have started here an Association of University Women which has been admitted to the International Federation. We are very few, but we think it may be interesting, and possibly of use.

*síðast uppfært 9. júní 2020