Jakobína Sigurðardóttir was born and grew up in poor conditions on Hornstrandir, the northernmost point of western Iceland, lived as a farmer's wife in northern Iceland from 1949 to 1994, and had four children.
From her debut children's book Sagan af Snæbjörtu Eldsdóttur og Ketilríði Kotungsdóttur, published in 1959, she developed into a prolific writer, despite a hard working life and failing health, and wrote with a finely tuned awareness of form, ranging from experimental realism to post-modernist metafiction. As an opponent of NATO bases and an environmental activist, she also wrote energetic debate articles and essays.
Her short stories and novels were always built on a social commitment to the working class, although she was highly critical of the leaders of the workers' movement and eventually became disillusioned with them. Her popular work, the multi-protagonist novel Dægurvísa, 1965, is set in a house, and the plot unfolds during the course of one single day. Her subsequent novels Snaran, 1968, and Lifandi vatnið, 1974, analyse the moral disintegration of values in Icelandic society after the war, leading to the disillusionment, alienation, and powerlessness of the workers. In her small, yet complex, Künstlerroman Í sama klefa, 1981, she describes a problematic relationship between two women.
Her beautiful autobiographical book Í barndómi, 1994, was published posthumously. Her other works include Kvæði, 1960, Púnktur á skökkum stað (SS), 1964, Sjö vindur gráar (SS), 1970, and Vegurinn upp á fjallið, 1990.