„Mér fannst eg finna sjálfa mig undireins og eg var laus við landann“: kvennabaráttan á Íslandi og alþjóðlegt samstarf.
Kvennahreyfingin er sennilega sú félagshreyfing 19. og 20. aldar sem best hefur fótað sig í alþjóðlegu ölduróti og náð fram flestum markmiðum sínum. Hér verður grafist fyrir um samskipti íslenskra kvenna við erlend kvenna- og kvenréttindasamtök á ofanverðri 19. öld og í upphafi 20. aldar. Notaðar eru áður ókannaðar heimildir til þess að leita svara við tveimur spurningum: Hver urðu áhrif alþjóðabaráttunnar hér á landi? Höfðu íslenskar konur eitthvað fram að færa á þessum vettvangi, og þá hvað? Heimildirnar sýna að tengsl íslenskra kvenna við alþjóða-kvennahreyfinguna skiptu miklu fyrir íslenska kvennabaráttu, einkum baráttuna fyrir kosningarétti, og að þessi tengsl hófust mun fyrr en áður hefur komið fram. Nýtt félag, Kvenréttindafélag Íslands, varð til fyrir tilstilli hinnar alþjóðlegu baráttu. Alþjóðabaráttan hafði einnig þau áhrif að þjóðleg einkenni voru dregin fram og þar lék íslenski skautbúningurinn nokkurt hlutverk.
INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION DURING THE FIRST DECADES OF THE ICELANDIC WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVEMENT Among 19th- and 20th-century social movements, the women’s movement is probably the one which has succeeded best in gradually achieving its goals and surviving international turbulence. This article investigates the relations of Icelandic women with foreign feminists and women’s organisations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Iceland’s liberal voting laws of 1882, granting widows and independent unmarried women the right to vote in municipal elections, became known among foreign feminists and attracted attention to Iceland. Based in part on documents never before investigated, the present study of the interactions of Icelandic women with the international women’s movement reveals that contact began earlier than previously realised. Camilla Bjarnarson, who in Denmark became the first Icelandic woman to complete an upper-secondary school diploma, gave a speech on Iceland and the political status of women at the Nordic Women’s Congress in Copenhagen in 1888. Sigríður Einarsdóttir, who was married to Eiríkur Magnússon, a librarian at Cambridge University, attended several international feminist meetings on both sides of the Atlantic during the last two decades of the 19th century. While she was attending on behalf of British organisations, she was everywhere introduced as an Icelander, and drew considerable attention to Iceland in her speeches and papers for such meetings. It was however not until 1894 that a formal women’s rights movement arose in Iceland, with the establishment of the Icelandic Women’s Association. The following year, this movement made another important stride through the founding of two women’s magazines: Framsókn (‘Progress’) at Seyðisfjörður and Kvennablaðið (‘the Women’s Magazine’) in Reykjavík. The same year that these two publications appeared, Reykjavík was visited by emissaries from the International Women’s Christian Temperance Union, or Hvítabandið (‘the White Ribbon’), as the Icelandic women’s temperance society later became known when it joined forces with the Temperance Union. The Icelandic organisation was the first ever on the island to build ties with an association overseas. Nonetheless, the impact of foreign relations on the Icelandic women’s movement remained insubstantial until the early 20th century. Bríet Bjarnhéðinsdóttir was in the vanguard as the editor of Kvennablaðið, and in 1906 was invited to attend the congress of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in Copenhagen. The president of the Alliance, Carrie Chapmann Catt, and the foremost speaker for Danish women’s rights organisations, Johanna Münter, strongly encouraged Bríet to work towards founding an Icelandic organisation which could act as a member of the international alliance. Bríet spearheaded the founding of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, with only one issue on its platform: to work for female political rights in harmony with the aims of overseas organisations. From this point on, the Icelandic women’s movement underwent significant developments. The demand for women’s suffrage grew boisterous, and the struggle turned political when a women’s list was set forth on a municipal level in Reykjavík in 1908. Bríet’s magazine, Kvennablaðið, became a voice fighting for women’s rights and liberation. On the other hand, Icelandic women were not merely passive recipients in the international context. The 1882 law granting franchise to widows and other unmarried women in municipal elections caught a great deal of foreign attention and probably inspired the leaders of the women’s rights struggle to take note of Iceland. In this sphere, Icelanders were respected as a separate and independent nation even though the country was formally still subject to the Danish king. The symbols of various nations were held aloft in the international struggle to indicate the solidarity of women from different nations, and the Icelandic national women’s costume also played such a role.