Prime Minister of Denmark Thorvald Stauning – Cigar Sorter
Thorvald Stauning was the first Socialist Prime Minister of Denmark, so it may not be too surprising that he came from much more modest roots than many of his political colleagues. He was born in Copenhagen in 1873, and as a young man, he became trained as a cigar sorter as a means of supporting himself. At the time men were employed to sort the cigars based on color variations in order to place cigars of the same hue in the same box together.
Once the cigars were placed in the box, a board would be placed over the row of cigars and the box would then be put in a press. Next, a hand wheel would be turned in order to apply pressure to the box and seal it. He was also trained to notice any imperfections and keep a record of all cigars in his possession.
Soon after starting his career as a cigar sorter, he joined the trade union. From 1896 until 1908 he was the leader of the Cigar Sorters’ Union. At the same time, he was a magazine editor, and in 1906 he was elected a member of Parliament. Once he started working in Parliament his focus changed, and in 1910 he was elected the chairman of the Social Democratic Party. He remained the chairman until 1939, an unprecedented length of time. When he became Prime Minister in 1916 he made history by creating the first solely Social Democratic Cabinet. His cabinet also gained worldwide attention when he appointed Nina Bang as the Minister of Education making her one of the first female ministers in the world.
He ran again for the Prime Minister position in 1932 and won, then he made history again by winning both subsequent elections. It was through his dedication and leadership that Denmark developed a social welfare state. His cabinet remained in power until the Nazi occupation of Denmark began in April 1940.