This year marks the 100th anniversary of women‘s right to vote and eligibility in parliamentary elections in Iceland. Women had already gained the right to vote and eligibility in municipal elections. In the beginning, the right to vote was restricted to women 40 years or older while men at the age of 25 were able to vote. In 1920 the franchise limits on women were abolished by law and women and men enjoyed the same legal voting rights thenceforth.
Voting participation of women was small in the beginning but increased gradually and women have taken active part in general elections throughout the century. Their turnout in elections was less than men’s for a length of time but the gap eventually closed and for the last few decades the participation rates of women have been higher than men’s. In the last parliamentary elections the participation of women was 81.9% and men’s 81.1%.
Early on, women came up with candidate lists both in municipal and parliamentary elections and the first woman was elected in Reykjavík in 1908 and later in a couple of other municipalities. The first female member to Althingi was elected in 1922. Despite this, women‘s share of candidates in elections remained low for a long time and elected members in Althingi and local government increased slowly.
In 1949 two women were elected to Althingi for the first time, before that there was only one female member to Althingi or none at a time. In 1971 three women were elected or 5% of total members. In 1983 the number of women members tripled and their share in Parliament was 15%. At this time one third of candidates were women but in the parliamentary elections in 1995 they were half of candidates but only a quarter of elected members. In the 2013 elections to Althingi, about 100 years after having gained the suffrage, women were 42% of candidates and 40% of elected members to Althingi.
In the period from 1950 to 1970, women were 1–2% of elected representatives in local governments. Their share started to increase thenceforward and reached 22% in 1990 and 44% in the last municipal elections in 2014.
A milestone event took place in the presidential elections in 1980 when Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected president of Iceland. She was not only the first woman president of Iceland but also the first nationally elected woman president in the world.
Women and elections for 100 years - Statistical Series