Kathleen Roberts is proof that Sheffield’s Women of Steel were made of stern stuff.
“I didn’t enjoy my time in the steelworks, but we had a job to do,” she said.
“We’d take home £3.20 for a 72-hour week without so much as a thank you from the men who ran the place - it’s what we did. “Luckily we had a great camaraderie among us and that’s what I remember best, how we took care of one another.”
Kathleen, was one of hundreds of Sheffield women who, nearly 70 years ago, took on ‘men’s work’s during World War II as their husbands, dads and sons were sent to the frontline - only to be unceremoniously fired when the men returned home.
The 92-year-old great-grandmother was keynote speaker at Sheffield’s 103rd International Women’s Day celebrations which took place at the city’s town hall on Saturday.
She told supporters: “I remember once chatting to a woman on the bus who’d had a baby a week earlier and was on her way back to work at the English Steel Corporation, that’s just how it was. “Women would have children and then have to go back to work, leaving their little one with friends or relatives or even taking them with them and putting them in the factory creche.
“It was tough but we had a strong work ethic and were determined to do our part.
“That story has always stuck with me, a reminder of just how tough women are, it’s very inspirational.”
Kathleen’s talk kicked-off a series of events and workshops held across the city - as part of the international day of celebration.
Hundreds of women attended the events to remember their proud and determined predecessors who struggled for women’s suffrage and equal rights at the turn of the last century.
Nancy Fielder, a former Star journalist who was responsible for launching the Women of Steel campaign four years ago to help the women get recognition for their efforts, said: “Kathleen’s story is such an important one for women to hear and I can’t think of a better forum to ensure the Women of Steel’s message is remembered.”
Sheffield city councillor Jackie Drayton told The Star: “International Women’s Day is a day dedicated to inspiring change and challenging female stereotypes.
“We’re trying to bring to the attention of young girls and women throughout Sheffield the fact that there are so many things for them to do in the world and so many choices available, thanks to the incredible women who’ve come before them.”
Coun Drayton, who is chairwoman of Sheffield Women’s Network, which organised the events, added: “The Women of Steel are the perfect spokespeople for this day and, in Sheffield, we’re using this event to raise money for the Women of Steel statue which we soon hope to have outside the City Hall - a true symbol of recognition for all these amazing women achieved.”
International Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of the past, present and future and has been acknowledged worldwide since 1911.
Other events on Saturday included a production of ‘Juliet and Romeo’ at The Foundry, where the legendary Shakespeare tale was told with a difference - the same story with the gender roles reversed.
Log on to www.justgiving.com/womenofsteel to make a donation to the Women of Steel statue fund.