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Magnusdottir, Rosa

Intellectual Activism during the Cold War: Icelandic Socialists and their International Networks

Þóra Vigfúsdóttir—an Icelandic housewife, activist, and a socialist—kept a diary from the 1920s until the 1970s outlining her daily activities, personal impressions of national and international events, encounters with friends and colleagues, and frequent travels to Europe as well as further away places such as the Soviet Union and China.  She and her husband, publisher and literary scholar Kristinn E. Andrésson, can be seen as the pillars of the left-wing community in Iceland: both were politically and socially active in trying to advance the communist cause and raise an intellectual working-class in Iceland. 

Þóra was one of the editors of Melkorka, a left-wing women’s journal, she was active in the International Women’s Movement, and she translated articles and wrote stories herself on the achievements of the Soviet Union and later China for several Icelandic publications, often focusing on women’s issues in her work.  Her publications and her diaries reveal an ambitious, liberated, well-traveled woman whose identity was largely shaped by her devotion to the socialist cause and whose career as a wife and activist was dedicated to both raising public awareness and improving the life of the Icelandic working-class.  She and her husband hosted visitors from all over the world and kept in touch with several like-minded people abroad through letters.  

My paper argues that non-state actors and their networks across Europe (and even on a more global scale) played an important and understated part in the dynamics of the Cold War conflict.  The unique source base of Þóra Vigfúsdóttir, her diaries and letters detailing encounters with Icelandic and foreign socialists, show her devotion to the socialist cause and reveals much about the international networks of (mainly) European intellectuals and activists during the Cold War.

Saturday 31 Oct, 9.30 -11.30 SESSION 7
Panel: Intellectual and Dissident Activism