Woman of Steel shows her mettle to reach 100

Century: Florence Baker.
Century: Florence Baker.
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WOMAN of Steel Florence Baker celebrated her century with a party for family and friends.

One-hundred-year-old Florence was born in 1911 in Parkgate, Rotherham, at the same time Captain Scott was on his ill-fated expedition to the South Pole. As a girl she went into domestic service in Huddersfield, before returning on the outbreak of World War Two to Rotherham, where she has remained ever since.

Florence is one of The Star’s Women of Steel - a hardy group who performed a vital role in the war effort, ensuring the furnaces of South Yorkshire’s steel mills kept burning after men went off to fight.

She worked at the Park Gate Iron and Steel Company as a crane driver and slinger, unloading train wagons coming into the mill.

It was at the works she met her husband Leonard, a First Hand on the open hearth furnaces at the mill. Florence and Leonard married in March 1944 at Rawmarsh Parish Church, before having their son, David.

Speaking of his mother’s experiences in the mills David, 64, said: “They were all quite prepared, quite proud. In some ways they helped stop this country from being occupied.

“She said it used to be frightening. There were some big guns defending Sheffield between Greasbrough and Parkgate, and it used to be scary at night when she could hear the guns firing. She always feels moved when she talks about the noise of the guns when the bombers were coming over to bomb Sheffield.”

After the war Florence returned to the home as a housewife. She and Leonard celebrated their diamond anniversary in 2004, before his death two years later. Florence has a grandson, Andrew.

David said the secrets of his mother’s longevity were walking, not smoking - but enjoying a drink when you feel like it.

She marked her day with a party at Whiston Hall Nursing Home where she now lives, with a special Women of Steel cake.

“I’m so proud,” said David.