Finding Iceland’s Hidden Women (Museums in Strange Places S01 E13)

In this special episode about women’s history in Iceland, I visit the Women’s History Archive at the National and University Library of Iceland (Kvennasögusafn Íslands) to speak to Rakel Adolphsdóttir about collecting women’s history in Iceland and hunting for the women hidden in Iceland’s archival collection. I also chat with Íris Ellenberger and Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir, two of the researchers behind the Hinsegin Huldkonur project, who are trying to find the queer women in Icelandic sources and create a database of queer women’s history.

The opening song in this episode is by Brynja Bjarnadóttir. The songs in the middle and end are recordings from the Women’s Day Off protests in 1975. You can find them in the video further down the page.

How to Listen to Museums in Strange Places

Welcome to Museums in Strange Places. I’m your host, Hannah Hethmon, and this is a podcast for people who love museums, stories, culture, and exploring the world.

This year, I’m living in Iceland, and in each episode, I visit a different Icelandic museum to discover what stories they hold and how they reflect and shape Iceland’s unique cultural identity.

The podcast is hosted by me, Hannah Hethmon, an American Fulbright Fellow living in Reykjavík. You can find and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @hannah_rfh.

The Museums in Strange Places podcast is available on your favorite podcast listening platforms (Did I miss one you like? Let me know!):

Things Mentioned in the Episode

Learn More About Icelandic Women’s History

Here’s a video with some highlights from the 1975 Women’s Day Off, called Kvennafrídagurinn in Icelandic.

Documentary about the Red Stocking group in Icelandic with English subtitles: Women in Red Stockings by Halla Kristín Einarsdóttir .

The Kvennasögusafn/Women’s History Archive has several excellent little articles on their website in English as well as a bibliography of sources in English for those wanting to research further:

Articles about Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first democratically directly elected woman in the world:

Photos of Icelandic Women’s History 

All photo courtesy of the Kvennasögusafn Íslands/ Women’s History Archive of Iceland

Photo from the Women’s Day Off on October 24, 1975

President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (left) visiting the Women’s History Archive when it was in Anna Sigurðardóttir’s home in 1985. Photo courtesy of the Women’s History Archive.

Members of parliament in 1924, including Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason, the first women elected to Icelandic parliament. Photo courtesy of Alþingi, Women’s History Archive.

In 2015 a few of Ingibjörg H. Bjarnason’s belongings were donated to the Women’s History Archives. She was the first women in Icelandic parliament. They were found in a box at the school she was a head mistress of. It is the only personal material from her kept in archives in Iceland.

Photo from the opening of the Women’s History Archives in Anna Sigurðardóttir’s home on January 1, 1975. Photo courtesy of the Women’s History Archive.

The committee for the Women’s Day Off giving their private papers to the archives in March 1976. Anna Sigurðardóttir on the left and Björg Einarsdóttir on the right. Photo courtesy of the Women’s History Archive.

Midwifes (ljósmæður) handing over their research of all midwifes in Iceland. Anna Sigurðardóttir sitting. Photo courtesy of the Women’s History Archive.


  1. Nancy Hoffmann

    Hannah, you are so talented and I am so proud of all that you do and all the work and research that you have accomplished. Love you very much and looking forward to seeing you in October

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