National Geographic : 1987 Feb
Iceland's best loved painter, and sculptor Asmundur Sveinsson. Iceland's president, Vigdis Finnbogad6t tir, former director of the Reykjavik The ater, is a strong supporter of the arts. "We were so poor and materials so scarce that Icelanders expressed themselves with the only thing that was free-words," she told me in her Reykjavik office. The 56-year-old president was elected in 1980 to her position as spokesperson for the nation and reelected without opposition in 1984. She believes that a national women's strike in 1975 planted the seed for her nomi nation and also for the founding of the Women's Alliance, which holds three seats in the Iceland Parliament. "The idea of the 1975 strike was to dem onstrate how valuable women are to our society," said President Vigdis. "It was a marvelous day. Men cooked for their chil dren for the first time and ran day-care cen ters in their offices." Some banks closed during the strike for lack of tellers, and telephone communica tions became hopelessly snarled because switchboard operators left their posts. In October 1985 the women staged an an niversary strike, and this time the President of Iceland herself didn't show up for work.