'We're in awe of her legacy' - tributes paid to Sheffield Woman of Steel Kit Sollitt

One of Sheffield's last surviving Women of Steel - who played a vital role in the war effort - has died, with her family declaring themselves 'in awe of her legacy'.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 2nd January 2018, 1:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 2nd January 2018, 3:20 pm
Kit Sollitt (right) with fellow Woman of Steel Kathleen Roberts
Kit Sollitt (right) with fellow Woman of Steel Kathleen Roberts

Kit Sollitt, who died on New Year's Eve, aged 98, was part of an army of women who kept the city's steel factories running during the Second World War.

She later helped spearhead a successful campaign to honour their contribution with a statue, which now stands proudly in Barker's Pool.

The Women of Steel statue is unveiled at Barker's Pool

Kit's daughter Lisa Sollitt-Pass described her as the embodiment of a Woman of Steel - a 'bright, independent, straight-talking woman who never let anyone underestimate her'.

She also told how her mum had remained full of spirit right to the end, using her final words shortly before 2018 arrived to tell her family to 'get the ale flowing'.

"Mum was the most amazing person and we're in awe of the legacy she's left us as a family. We were so lucky to be able to call her ours," said Lisa.

"She was one of those women whose door would always be the first you'd go to in times of trouble.

Kit at the unveiling of the statue

"She was a bright, independent, straight-talking woman who never let anyone underestimate her and always showed determination in the face of adversity, right to the end."

Kit, whose father was a little mester and whose mum ran a fish and chip shop, was born in Heeley but lived in Gleadless for most of her life.

She was just 14 when she began work as a French polishing apprentice for Viners, grafting for 12 hours at a time for a weekly wage of just five shillings a week.

When war broke out a few years later she became one of the first to answer the call for women to staff the foundries and keep them churning out essential equipment to power the Allied campaign.

Kit on her wedding day

She initially worked at Moore & Wright, assembling ratchets for micrometers, before taking up employment as a sandmiller at Hardy Patent Pick on Little London Road.

When the war ended, she and the other Women of Steel, who had contributed so much in often appalling conditions, were unceremoniously dumped from their roles as the men returned to replace them.

Unlike many of the other women, who would never again see the inside of a steel factory, she returned to the role once her children were older and went on to work in three other foundries to get 'a man's pay'.

She continued to suffer from migraines into her later years, which she attributed to the punishing conditions she endured at work during the war, and also bore the physical scars which were a testament to the dangers she faced.

Kit Sollitt and Kathleen Roberts with Nancy Fielder and Kim Streets beside the Women of Steel maquette at the Weston Park Museum.

She wrote two novels based on her family's experiences in the steelworks and was one of four women who fronted the fundraising campaign for the Women of Steel statue.

Of those four, only Kathleen Roberts now survives, with Ruby Gascoigne having died in October, aged 95, and Dorothy Slingsby passing away on Christmas Eve 2016, also aged 95.

Lisa said her mum had been 'so proud' of the statue and had cherished every moment of the fight to get it made, especially the trip to 10 Downing Street.

Despite the hazards she encountered, with explosions and spillages of molten metal being common occurrences, she also loved being a Woman of Steel, added her daughter, who said 'that's where mum told me she learnt to swear'.

Kit refused to let her advancing years dim her appetite for life. She taught herself to use a computer in her 90s, was still babysitting her beloved great-grandchildren weeks before she passed away and continued to keep fit well into 2017 using a mini-trampoline and an exercise bike.

She was a talented knitter, an avid crossword enthusiast and, although she never placed a bet, would pick her horses each day just to test her knowledge of the racecourse.

Kit's family described her as the 'most amazing person'

Kit, whose husband Walt passed away in his 70s, is survived by her four children: Lisa, Norma, Mike and Diane. She also had 10 grandchildren and the same number of great-grandchildren.

Kit (left) is reunited with fellow Sheffield Blitz survivor Madeline Dye
Kit Sollitt's family told how she was still exercising using a mini-trampoline until a few months before her death
Kit (front) with fellow Women of Steel campaigners (l-r) Dorothy Slingsby, Ruby Gascoigne and Kathleen Roberts
The Women of Steel statue is unveiled at Barker's Pool
Kit at the unveiling of the statue
Kit on her wedding day
Kit Sollitt and Kathleen Roberts with Nancy Fielder and Kim Streets beside the Women of Steel maquette at the Weston Park Museum.
Kit's family described her as the 'most amazing person'
Kit (left) is reunited with fellow Sheffield Blitz survivor Madeline Dye
Kit Sollitt's family told how she was still exercising using a mini-trampoline until a few months before her death
Kit (front) with fellow Women of Steel campaigners (l-r) Dorothy Slingsby, Ruby Gascoigne and Kathleen Roberts