With her election as President of Iceland in 1980, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir became the first female head of state in the world. She was subsequently re-elected three times and retired in 1996.
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was born in Reykjavík in 1930. She graduated in 1949 having majored in foreign language. After passing her matriculation exam in 1994, she went on to study French language and literature in Pairs, English, French, and theater literature in Iceland, the history of theater in Copenhagen, and French in Sweden.
Vigdís worked for Icelandic State Travel Agency, taught French at Reykjavík Grammar School (1962-1967) and Hamrahlíð College (1967-1972), and literature of the French theater at the University of Iceland. Vigdís took an active role in promoting the country, acting as a cultural ambassador, and enjoyed immense popularity. From 1978-1980 she headed the Nordic Council of Ministers for Culture committee before taking the office of Presidency.
After her presidency, she became the founding Chair of the Council of Women World Leaders in 1997. A year later, she was appointed the president of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. From 1999-2004 Vigdís acted as chair of the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology. In 2000 she was appointed United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in the Fight Against Racism and Xenophobia. In 2008 she was named a World Theatre Ambassador at the World Congress of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in Madrid, Spain. She is head of the board of trustees of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and a member of the Club of Madrid.
Image via University of Iceland