Sheffield woman of steel Gladys 'Kitty' Little who helped keep city's industry alive in WWII dies aged 105

One of Sheffield’s original Women of Steel who fought to keep the city’s industry alive during World War Two has died aged 105.

Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 5:01 pm

Gladys ‘Kitty’ Little passed away peacefully surrounded by her family at Beechy Knoll Residential Home on April 21.

The popular and good-humoured supercentenarian was one of the last living ‘Women of Steel’ who was called up to take Sheffield’s steelworks industry by the horns while the men in their lives fought overseas in World War Two.

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Kitty pictured with her husband of 49 years Alf.

Her son Keith told The Star: “My mother liked to laugh and meeting other people. In the days since her death we’ve been regaling stories of what she would come out with.

"She was one of those people you just liked to be around.”

Gladys was born in Woodhouse on July 21, 1916. Within minutes of her birth, she was given the lifelong nickname ‘Kitty’ after a nurse remarked she looked like Pretty Kitty, an icon from back in the day.

She told The Star in an interview for her 100th birthday: “I had a very happy childhood. We were never bored, not like a lot of children today. We didn’t even know the meaning of the word.”

Kitty Little celebrates her 105th birthday with the staff at Beechy Knoll Care Home in Sheffield

She lived in Sheffield all her life and met her husband of 49 years, Alf, in the early 1940s.

Like countless other Sheffield women, it was then that Kitty was called up to keep the city’s steelworking industry alive.

She told The Star: “All the women were called up to work when the war started and I was given a welding job. I’d never done anything like that before in my life.

"I used to weld together little springs for Spitfires and biggers springs for the bombers.

Gladys 'Kitty' Little, one of the last living Women of Steel who worked the steel industry in WWII, has passed away 105.

"I got to be rather good at welding.”

As many Women of Steel have shared decades afterwards, when the men returned home and were given their jobs back, the women were given notice and encouraged not to speak of it again.

In the following years, Kitty and Alfred had three children and stayed in Sheffield, until her husband died in 1993.

It was only in 2010 when the Women of Steel were given their due credit, after a campaign spearheaded by four friends led to the unveiling of the statue now outside City Hall in Barker’s Pool that stands today.

As a result, Kitty was able to attend an honourary dinner for the workers at Cutler’s Hall and meet with a community of colleagues she hasn’t seen in over 70 years.

Keith said: “My sister heard about it and told my mum. It was such a long time for it to be put together.

"I went with her to it. I just remember being in a room of remarkable women and mum was swapping stories with them.”

In her later years, Kitty moved to Beechy Knoll Residential Home.

Keith said: “On her 105th birthday when she got her card from the Queen, she said ‘Oh she remembered, I always liked her’. It made us all laugh.”

Manager at Beechy Knoll Marina Glaves said: “Kitty was a very popular person around the home. She enjoyed a laugh and joke and had a really good sense of humour.

"Her family were all with her when she passed away peacefully. She is sadly missed around the home.”