Give our women the statue they deserve

Women of Steel Kathleen Roberts, Kitty Sollitt and Ruby Gascoigne
Women of Steel Kathleen Roberts, Kitty Sollitt and Ruby Gascoigne
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MEMBERS of the Friends of the Peak District will walk to Stanage Pole on Saturday, July 9, as part of a campaign for greater protection of the landscape from off-road vehicles.

The Star’s campaign to win recognition for the women who kept the steelworks going during World War II was greeted with the promise of a permanent memorial in a prominent place in the city centre.

The pledge was made more than a year ago and today the women who made bullets, bombs, planes and ships for our boys on the frontline are demanding answers.

Kathleen Roberts, aged 89, started the campaign - which was backed by Parliament and the Prime Minister - and stressed time is of the essence.

More than 100 women still survive, aged in their 80s and 90s, but most died before receiving any thanks.

“The idea came from the council, not from us, and most people think it is a lovely idea but they have really got to get a move on,” Kathleen said.

“All the women involved in this campaign would dearly love to see it come to its conclusion but we may not be around when that happens because it is taking so long.

“This is not for us, we are doing it for all the women who worked in the steel industry in Sheffield.”

The proposal was given cross-party support in April 2010 and one suggestion was for a statue to be placed on the corner of the City Hall steps.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems are still fully behind the idea and £28,000 has been set aside but more money is needed.

The administration has since changed hands and today Labour pledged to move it forward as soon as possible.

Council leader Julie Dore said: “I find it profoundly disappointing that the previous Lib Dem administration failed to deliver on a promise made over 12 months ago to the Women of Steel to provide a memorial as recognition by the city of the contribution made by thousands of Sheffield women who worked in the steel industry during World War Two.

“The Lib Dems recognised the need to move this forward as a matter of urgency, as it said in the report itself in April 2010 that ‘there was a need to bring this project to fruition during their lifetime’.

“To now find that they took over a year to identify a sum of money to kickstart the project and also failed to commence any sort of consultation means that they have wasted precious time which I think the people of Sheffield will find unforgivable.

“This Labour council are now putting together a plan to ensure that this promise to the Women of Steel and Sheffield people is delivered as soon as possible. We thank The Star for their continued support and will be working with them to keep the people of Sheffield informed.”

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield added: “I’m shocked that the Lib Dems used the Women of Steel to make a big public commitment just a month before the general and local elections and then failed to proceed for over 12 months, but I’m now pleased that the new Labour council are determined to sort the matter out and I will be doing all I can to help and support the project.”

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, renewed his support for the monument but said serious questions had to be asked.

“Whilst in power Liberal Democrats got the ball rolling by taking the decision to go ahead with this important memorial. We earmarked £28,000 for the project, with a signed-off plan to raise the rest through donations from local businesses and other donors. That was just before Labour took over at the May 5 elections.

“Since Labour took power it seems as though not much has happened to take this important project forward. I’m not even clear if any businesses or potential donors have been approached. Serious questions have to be asked about why the council has taken their eye off the ball.

“Sheffield women made great sacrifices for the war effort and it’s important that, as a city, we recognise their contribution. I’m disappointed that our Women of Steel are being badly let down by Labour.

“Labour complain about a lack of investment but the fact is only the other week they outlined £2m of extra spending on their priorities, the Women of Steel memorial wasn’t one of them.”