Students capture Sheffield’s Women of Steel memories for big screen

Sheffield's Women of Steel  meet the academic who led the project.
Sheffield's Women of Steel meet the academic who led the project.
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THEY wore stockings made of gravy browning and had offal for their wedding feasts but Sheffield’s Women of Steel aren’t so different from today’s young women.

Age barriers were cast aside as the women who kept the steelworks going during World War Two shared their stories for a film being made by Sheffield University’s School of English.

Kathleen Roberts, Kit Sollitt, Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby gave students at The University of Sheffield an insight into the lives of women during wartime, from fashion, food and relationships to surviving in the steelworks.

They admitted they envied many of the freedoms and opportunities available to today’s women, but felt sorry for them in today’s job market.

The women, whose ages ranged from 22 to 91, shared a pie and pea supper during the Town Hall event, part of Sheffield’s celebrations for International Women’s Day.

The film was made as part of the Women of Steel campaign and is linked to the Storying Sheffield project in which students are working with Sheffielders to collect, record and produce stories about their lives.

Ruby said although times had changed, all the women had many things in common.

She said: “I envy the freedom today’s young women have got. My life was determined by work, bed, tram timetables, trying to look after a little boy as well, and not having my husband there.

“We didn’t have make-up like they have now. We used gravy on our legs and drew a line up the back to look like stockings.”

Kath, who sparked The Star’s Women of Steel campaign, said life was hard but there were plenty of good times too.

She said: “We had our young lives taken away from us and we had to grow up very quickly. We went to work when we were ill and that was that. We had no choice.”

The four women took their stories to Downing Street last year and won official recognition from the Government as well as a pledge by Sheffield Council to create a permanent memorial in honour of the female wartime steelworkers.

The council has been consulting with some of the women and is developing a more detailed public consultation and project development plan for the sculpture.

n The Women of Steel book and DVD are available from The Star shop on York Street.