Prime ministers, political rivals, colleagues and friends were hailing Kaci Kullmann Five on Monday as a woman who made great strides towards clearing the way for others like her. Even though her rival Labour Party often gets the most credit for advancement of women’s rights and environmental issues in Norway, it’s been Five and her Conservative Party that often ushered in measures that made life easier for dual-career families and for women to attain executive positions and more seats on corporate boards.
“She has been a role model for all us younger women,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday after news broke that Karin Cecilie “Kaci” Kullmann Five had died over the weekend at an age of 65. Five, who had suffered from cancer and diabetes, was most recently the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the Nobel Peace Price, in addition to being a businesswoman and veteran of the Conservative Party, which she both led and represented in government.
Solberg said in her own tribute to Five that her predecessor as leader of the Conservative Party “made it possible to be both personal and to combine family and politics.” She said Five became an important part of the party’s history but also the nation’s, in leading a new generation of female politicians in the 1980s.
“She created a clear feminist platform within the Conservatives,” Solberg said. The party had been mostly known as a bastion of white men, and Five’s “pioneering work” was especially important for the other women, not least Solberg herself.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Labour prime minister who also has been viewed as a pioneer, said she would remember Five “with respect and gratitude” for her “considerable political contribution” over several decades. “She represented the ‘new’ in the Conservative Party (Høyre), when equality and the environment became major issures among young people also on the non-socialist side,” Brundtland wrote in a statement released Monday.
Jens Stoltenberg, another former Labour prime minister who now serves as secretary general of NATO in Brussels, called Five “a demanding opponent” and agreed that she cleared the way for more women and young people to get into politics., not just in her own party.
“Kaci Kullmann Five was a forerunner for my generation of politicians,” Stoltenberg said. He described her as “thorough and highly knowledgeable” and a politician who will be remembered for her contributions to equality and Norway’s relations with Europe. “She was a demanding opponent, but always friendly and inclusive privately,” Stoltenberg said.
Norway’s Foreign Minister Børge Brende, currently in Bangladesh after a series of high-level meetings in Europe last week, stated on social media Monday that “the loss and empty room after Kaci Kullmann Five will be large. I will miss her has a friend and someone who inspired me from the time she was leader of Unge Høyre (the Conservative Party’s youth organization).”
Progress Party leader and Finance Minister Siv Jensen called Five a “warm person, always with a friendly smile,” while Christian Democrats leader Knut Arild Hareide said he had received news of her death with sorrow. “She was a great politician and warm person who will be remembered for her advancements in equality and the environement.”
Kåre Willoch, the elderly patriarch of the Conservative Party who served as prime minister in the mid-1980s and is largely credited with significantly deregulating and opening up Norwegian society, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was “especially sad” that Five “only had two years to be leader of the Nobel Committee.” He called her final, important role as “suiting her especially well because of her global insight and her national insight. She was a person with special abilities to create good contacts and trust.”
Geir Lundestad, longtime secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee who retired just before Five took over, also called her death “extremely sad.” Lundestad described her as hardworking, thorough, unifying and simply very nice.
“She was so conscientious,” said Lundestad, who worked with her for more than nearly 12 years. “There were few, if any, who spent more time and prepared themselves so well for committee meetings than Kaci did,” Lundestad told NRK. “She had many official duties and was always well-prepared.”
Liv Tørres, leader of the Nobel Center in Oslo, was also mourning Five’s death. “She will be deeply missed on our board and by everyone who worked with her,” Tørres said. “She was impressive, humourous, knowledgable, warm, a great support and a fantastic role model.”