A different sort of war monument is slated for unveiling in Barker’s Square Pool in the summer of 2016. Instead of the often seen image of a man in full military regalia atop a war horse, this monument depicts two women in working clothes with faces full of determination.
They are the women of Sheffield Steel, the women who worked tirelessly in the steel factories contributing to the war effort by manufacturing armaments and munitions for the men on the frontlines.
Long Overdue Recognition for the Girls of Steel
The brainchild of Sheffield Star reporter Nancy Fielder, the statue is planned to grace the front of the Sheffield City Hall upon its completion.
Famed artist Martin Jennings, best known for his likeness of John Betjeman at London’s St. Pancras station, was commissioned to sculpt the monument.
Fielder, who was unsettled by the noticeable absence of monuments commemorating the woman who worked quietly and heroically behind the scenes, began rallying four years ago to get the women of Sheffield Steel the recognition they deserve while some are still living.
Life in the Steel Factories
Placed in mostly unfamiliar settings and tasked with jobs previously only designated for men, the women adapted to new working conditions and long days at the factories while still working in the home to tend their families.
Work in the steel factories was not only demanding but was often dangerous as well, tending the large furnaces even while the city suffered blackout conditions.
Happy to be contributing to the war effort, the women were still largely cognizant of the discrepancy in wages between themselves and their male counterparts. Ruby Gascoigne, who worked in a Sheffield Steel factory during World War II, was quoted in a piece done by the Guardian as saying, “The money was rubbish. I did a man’s job but I didn’t get a man’s money. You were lucky if you came out with two quid a week and we were doing 13-hour nights.”
A Global Fundraising Initiative
Almost seventy years since the end of World War II, the world agrees that it is time to give these hard-working women the praise and recognition they rightly deserve.
A fundraising campaign to raise money for the monument was kicked off in 2012 by the Sheffield City Council, who donated £28,000 to make the statue a reality.
A JustGiving page was set up to receive donations for the project. In addition to collecting a considerable sum, the page also serves as a platform for local pride and encouraging words for the “Steel City Girls.”
With support reaching international proportions, £150,000 has been raised by donors from all over the globe, some as far away as the United Arab Emirates. The designated goal was met by a contribution from Stauff UK, a Sheffield steel company, whose spokesperson John Morris lauded the women for their, “gutsy contributions to industry.”
With the surviving Girls of Steel well into their eighties and nineties, it is crucial that the monument is completed and unveiled on time so those to whom it is dedicated may see their likeness stand in a place of well-deserved and long overdue honor.
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