Thursday, 11 August 2011

News - Help us build our Women of Steel statue (Sheffield)

Our Women of Steel could be honoured with a city centre statue within a year - and Sheffielders are being asked to show their full support.

The Star’s campaign for the women who kept the steelworks running during World War Two received massive backing last year.

The move won recognition from Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence and Buckingham Palace.

Hundreds of families from across the area came forward to add the names of their mums and grandmothers to our roll of honour, thrilled to see action decades after the women were unceremoniously fired when the men returned from the front line.

Sheffield Council pledged to install a permanent monument in the city centre - and today revealed they will launch a fundraising appeal by unveiling a brass plaque, inlaid in the pavement in Barker’s Pool.

A total of £28,000 was earmarked for the statue in a cabinet report last year - but around £150,000 will be needed to pay for the statue.

There are more than 100 surviving Women of Steel, aged between 85 and 101, and campaigners are stressing time is of the essence.

Great-great-grandmother Ruby Gascoigne said: “It is about having a statue there after we have gone and for those who have already gone. We are not getting any younger and we would love to see the statue finished.

“We didn’t work for thanks but now we know what we did was vital to the war.

“We released a lot of men to go into the forces to fight and my whole family, as well as hundreds of other families, feels very strongly that nobody really appreciated what Sheffield women did before The Star’s campaign.

“My life was ruined working 13-hour nights, coming home see to my baby and then spending the rest of the time in the air raid shelter while my husband was away, for four years.”

Council leader Julie Dore said the plaque should be unveiled no later than November, with the statue hopefully arriving in a year’s time.

But she added: “I don’t know how long it will take to raise the money. You’ve got to recommend about three sculptors with a reputation for this kind of work, and ask the women what they want.

“Then you have to go through the process of designing the statue, and also raise awareness among members of the public. That will take at least 10 months just to do that.

“We’ll unveil the plaque and at the same time say we’ve identified a sculptor and launch the appeal. It’s going to be really nice.”

The Star has agreed to support the council’s fundraising campaign and will be urging readers to help make the dream a reality.

The commemorative plaque will be near an oak tree in Barker’s Pool, by the City Hall steps.

Coun Dore revealed the first £5,000 has already been raised for the appeal, adding: “Hopefully it’s not just going to be an appeal for money from the public - we’ve got ideas about how we might get other organisations involved.

“We’re going to have a statue but we can’t produce a statue in three months. We’re in a period of recession and worry about funding, but I feel positively hopeful. All I can commit to is our aim of having a statue.”

Kathleen Roberts, aged 89, sparked The Star’s campaign which won national recognition last year.

She said: “We know the financial situation that everybody is facing but it would be wonderful to see a statue in a year’s time.

“We really want to see this to the end, not just for ourselves but for the thousands of mums, grandmas, sisters and aunts who died before being thanked. When you get to our age you are on borrowed time.”

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