Herostories reveals tales untold by most history books: the harrowing journeys and vital triumphs of 19th and 20th century midwifery in the vast landscape of Iceland.
Composed from the memoirs and biographies of 100 Icelandic midwives, poet-historian Kristín Svava Tómasdóttir’s found poems illuminate the dangers and valor of birthwork. Forgoing traditional sagas of androcentric conquest, these poems center the adventures of ljósmæður, “mothers of light.” Tómasdóttir leverages epic elements—dashing mountain treks, rivers forded on horseback, unyielding compassion—to challenge how and by whom stories become legend.
The follow-up to Tómasdóttir/Thors’ award-winning, PEN-nominated Stormwarning, Herostories documents the professional achievements of the island’s first women to work outside the home, precursors to today’s midwives who remain central to contemporary Icelandic healthcare.
Beyond archival recognition, the text's formally ambitious poetics render gender-based battles for literacy and education alongside narratives of selfless womanly caretaking, pressurizing the fundamental tensions between feminine self-actualization and the romanticized service of these trailblazing figures.