Ella – October 30, 2017

Recently there has been an outpouring of #metoo stories from women of all generations and backgrounds. An October 5 New York Times investigation detailed sexual harassment allegations against a high-powered Hollywood executive dating back to 1990, and more women, many of them well known in the entertainment industry, began to come forward with their own experiences. This set off a swell of women stepping forward to say they have had to deal with harassment or inequality for years and haven’t spoken up until now.

While only history will tell, the fight against sexual harassment likely will be another powerful movement in women’s rights…perhaps in Denmark, too, as the same women’s movements we have experienced in the United States have happened there as well.

Women in Denmark won the right to vote and run for office in a 1915 constitution. After the signing of the constitution, 20,000 Danish women marched through Copenhagen to Amalienborg Palace to mark the historic occasion. Denmark was ahead of the U.S., as women in America weren’t allowed to vote until 1920.

20,000 women marched to Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen to mark the occasion of being granted the right to vote in 1915.

A 2014 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report  ranked Denmark fifth in the world in gender equality. All of the top five were Nordic countries, including Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. By comparison, the U.S. ranked 20th in 2014 and 45th in 2016.

Remaining on the cutting edge of the women’s movement, Denmark founded the Feminist Initiative political party in June of this year and made its political agenda public in September. Five candidates will run in upcoming municipal elections in Copenhagen. Said one of them, Muneeza Rosendahl, “Feminism is not just about equality, but about everyone taking part in society equally. It’s a criticism of power and a fight for civil rights. Perhaps the word ‘feminism’ will scare people a little to start with, but we hope to win the word back.” Furthermore, the party does not discourage men, but stands for gender equality.

There have always been strong women in my family – indeed, my great-great-grandmother Anna Mikkelsen was one of the founders of The Danish Home. That took strength, especially in her day! I began to wonder how women’s roles in her homeland of Denmark compare to what they have been like in the U.S.

According to the National Museum of Denmark, women in the Viking Age (until 1050 AD) were typically housewives, managing the home on the farm “with a firm hand.” When a man was called on expedition, women took over the farm. According to the museum, Viking women are portrayed as independent and possessing rights. Today, women are increasing representation in the Danish workforce to more than 40 percent, according to a study on gender roles by DePauw University.

The XIX Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowed women the right to vote in 1920.

I find the comparisons between America and Denmark interesting and look forward to keeping up on equality issues in both countries. I believe we are in another time of progression and change in the women’s movement and some day will look back and see that a shift toward even greater equality has been made both here and in the homeland.

When I think of my own ancestors just a few generations before, who helped establish Danish-American history in the Chicago area, and of the founders of The Danish Home who were recently celebrated at a conference of the Danish American Heritage Society in Schaumburg, I am inspired  to think about how I might carry that torch for generations of women to come.