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The First Lady


Eliza_m_Dagur_Gunnarsson_w365pxEliza Jean Reid was born in 1976 in Ottawa, Canada. She moved to Iceland in August, 2003 and the following year married Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, whom she met at Oxford University in 1998. They have four children together: Duncan Tindur (b. 2007), Donald Gunnar (b. 2009), Sæþór Peter (b. 2011) and Edda Margrét (b. 2013). 


Eliza holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Trinity College, University of Toronto, where she held the position of Head of College in her final year. She holds a Master of Studies degree in modern history from St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. She speaks good, if rusty, French and good Icelandic. 


Eliza is Co-Founder of the acclaimed Iceland Writers Retreat, an annual event that combines small-group writing workshops with cultural tours to introduce visitors to Iceland’s unique literary heritage. In this capacity, she has been active in helping to promote Icelandic writers and literary heritage abroad, especially in North America.


Since founding her own company in 2008, Eliza has undertaken numerous writing, editing, and event management assignments, including acting as editor for Icelandair’s in-flight magazine (2012-2016). She was also a staff writer at Iceland Review from 2005-2008, and has been published in Monocle, The Globe and Mail, and other newspapers and magazines. She was also a frequent commentator on Icelandic current affairs for foreign media, and made appearances on BBC Radio Scotland, CBS Radio, CBC Television and Radio (Canada), France 24, and RTE (Ireland). 


Eliza has been active in volunteerism in Canada, the UK, and Iceland. She was a hospital volunteer from her teenage years, and in 1998 ran Canada’s largest summer student volunteer program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. During her time in the UK, she volunteered for several years at a local hospice. In Iceland, she volunteered for the Red Cross (at Landspítali Hospital) and served on the parents’ council of her children’s pre-school (until summer 2015). She was also Chair of the English-Speaking Union of Iceland (2009-2013), a branch of an international charity designed to promote international peach and prosperity; the launch of ESU Iceland was the second largest formal launch of the organization’s history to that date.


Before her shift to the writing world, Eliza worked as Marketing Specialist at Calidris (2003-2004) and in various Sales and Marketing roles for De La Rue in the UK (1999-2003). 


Eliza enjoys travel and has made solo trips to countries as diverse as Uzbekistan and Benin. She is a member of the Association of Women Business Leaders in Iceland (FKA) and was a member of the Canadian branch of the Society of American Travel Writers. She received a choral scholarship while a student at the University of Toronto and sang with the Hallgrímskirkja Motet Choir in the mid-2000s. 


(Photograph: Dagur Gunnarsson).