Steely Sheffield memories inspiring sculptor

Women of Steel memoirs. Winifrid Ball
Women of Steel memoirs. Winifrid Ball

Sheffield’s Women of Steel have waited more than 60 years for official recognition...

...plenty of time for them to get ideas about how they’d like the official sculpture to look.

Scores of the women, now in their late 80s and 90s, came together at the Town Hall yesterday to put forward their suggestions for the memorial.

Sculptor Martin Jennings was in town to hear their views and get inspiration for the statue which is likely to stand near the City Hall.

He was particularly keen to hear about the many different roles the women took on during the war years, what they had to wear and how they felt about their positions.

“It is a lovely job,” he said. “There is a strong sense of making sure we get it right.

“There is a quiet patience about a lot of the women because they have waited all these years for the recognition that never came at the end of the time when they did the work. This is a very important piece of work.”

Martin’s works of art have been commissioned for the National Portrait Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Palace of Westminster and the University of Oxford. One of his best known statues is of John Betjeman at St Pancras Station.

The Star launched our Women of Steel campaign two years ago to get recognition for the women who kept the city’s foundries producing tanks, ships, weapons and planes during the wars as the men fought on the front line.

We have taken the campaign to Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and the Ministry of Defence and Sheffield Council is presently fundraising for the bronze statue.

Council leader Julie Dore said yesterday’s event was a great chance for the women to get together and exchange memories as well as share their suggestions for the memorial.

“It was another fantastic event to raise the profile and the awareness. Even though it was for a purpose, to share ideas with Martin Jennings, I think it has been thoroughly enjoyable for everyone to share their memories,” she said.

So far £35,000 has been raised towards total design and construction costs of £150,000. A public appeal for donations will be launched officially later.

this year.