Residents praise Sheffield’s new Women of Steel statue

Five-day-old Florence Stirgess with her mum. Suzanne, after the Women of Steel ceremony. Florence's great-grandmother, Betty Wragg, was a woman of steel.
Five-day-old Florence Stirgess with her mum. Suzanne, after the Women of Steel ceremony. Florence's great-grandmother, Betty Wragg, was a woman of steel.
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Sheffield locals have expressed their love and support for the city’s Women of Steel following a heartwarming statue unveiling ceremony last week.

Last Friday, the people of Sheffield united to celebrate the brave women – who kept the munitions factories going through two world wars – with the official unveiling of a statue in their honour.

The Star's sales reps Charlotte Young and Emma Toogood with the Women of Steel statue

The Star's sales reps Charlotte Young and Emma Toogood with the Women of Steel statue

Alongside the statue, medals made at Sheffield Assay Office were also presented to the surviving women and to the families of many hundreds who are no longer with us.

An estimated 2,000 people gathered in Barker’s Pool outside Sheffield City Hall to see the new statue and a live screening of the ceremony was filmed by The Star and broadcast on our Facebook page for those unable to make the event.

Meanwhile, sales representatives from The Star took to the streets to sell copies of the paper which featured a special eight-page souvenir pull-out.

The broadcast led to an outpour of support from locals and those further afield, with some leaving heartfelt comments and stories about the women.

Sheffields tribute to the Women of Steel is unveiled outside the City Hall, Sheffield, United Kingdom,  17 June 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

Sheffields tribute to the Women of Steel is unveiled outside the City Hall, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 17 June 2016. Photo by Glenn Ashley.

On Facebook, Lyndsay Monks commented: “Such a proud moment for Sheffield, and all of the Women of Steel – for those who could be there today, and for those no longer with us.

“My wonderful Nan, Evelyn Webster, was one of the proud women there being honoured. Four generations of the same family, 91 years between the oldest and the youngest members. So proud. So honoured. Thank you to the Women of Steel.”

This was echoed by Siobhan Howard-Palmer on Facebook, who said: “One of the most inspirational, wonderful days.

“I spent my afternoon with 90 plus year old women sharing their memories and bravery.

“This isn’t simply a gesture, it was a statue designed by the Women of Steel and requested by them as a permanent commemoration of the amazing, life changing roles these ladies took on in such difficult times.”

Lorraine Cooke said: “My Mum was in this crowd. She received her medal for being a true Woman of Steel.

“She worked in the steelworks making aircraft parts for the war effort while my Dad was serving in the Royal Navy in the Commandos.

“She was eight months pregnant with me when she had to stop work. She said it was the best job she ever had. Congratulations Elizabeth Newsham, I’m so proud of you.”

Claire Bolton said: “This is fabulous and a well deserved monument to mark the efforts of these amazing women.”

Karen Hallam commented: “The women worked in the steelworks during the war, keeping the steel industry alive and making munitions for the men to fight with.

“Many of these women had children at home, yet stepped up in an extremely dangerous environment that was considered ‘men’s work only’ – this recognition is wonderful.”

Also among the Women of Steel supporters on the day was five-day-old Florence Stirgess with her mum, Suzanne.

Florence’s proud granny, Margaret Graham, said: “Florence’s great grandmother, Betty Wragg, was one of the Women of Steel.”

The Women of Steel sculpture was paid for using public donations, which totalled more than £170,000 after a Star-backed public appeal was launched by the council.

Some of the donations were also put towards medals for the brave women, or for the families of those who have died.

The statue was unveiled by the campaign’s figureheads Kathleen Roberts, 94, Kit Sollitt, 96, Ruby Gascoigne, 93 and Dorothy Slingsby, 95, who were all played a pivotal role in raising the money.

Those present included roughly 100 Women of Steel survivors, some of whom are now over 100 years old, alongside family, friends and members of the public.

A live rendition of Women of Steel was also sung by Sheffield songwriter by John Reilly, who co-wrote the song with Eliot Kennedy and John Parr.