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Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Oral history of Sheffield's Women of Steel is launched
Jenny Richards, Woman of Steel Ruby Gascoigne and Sarah Jackson
Sheffield's Women of Steel share their memories for a new history project

"It was dirty, it was noisy and it was jolly hard work."

That is Kathleen Roberts's view of life as one of the Women of Steel in Sheffield in World War II.

They were conscripted to work in the steel works to keep production going when the men went off to war.

Their efforts were finally recognised by the government at the start of 2010 and now researchers are recording their personal accounts of life in the factories for an oral history project.

The project is part of a module for English students at the University of Sheffield, called Storying Sheffield.

Students work with members of the local community to collect, record and produce stories about their lives in Sheffield.

Three of the Women of Steel met with five students from the University's School of English in December 2010 to record their memories to create permanent digital artefacts.

Kathleen Roberts was one of the women taking part:

"I didn't enjoy working in the steel works. It was dirty, it was noisy and it was jolly hard work and the men did not make us at all welcome for quite some time.

"They had to teach us what to do and they were very reluctant to do it but they eventually got over it."

Kathleen was the leading light in the campaign to get more recognition for the role of the hundreds of Women of Steel who toiled in the steel factories.

It was the comparison with how the Land Girls, who kept farms going during the war, were treated that spurred Katherine into action.

"It was actually the day that I saw the Land Army girls at Buckingham Palace getting their recognition.

"I thought then that we've forgotten what we did in the war and it doesn't seem right that we're not getting recognised."

With the support of local MPs, a visit to Downing Street was arranged in January 2010 to meet the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who paid tribute to them and their work.

Now, the nature of that work and their personal memories of family life and relationships during that time will be recorded for posterity in the oral history.

Sarah Jackson is one of the students recording the women's memories which will eventually be shown to the public:

"We know that they're very, very inspirational women.

"We were very fortunate to spend time with them and hear their amazing stories.

"We're making a short film from the recordings which is to be shown at the Showroom Cinema in February (2011)."

And there will be more recognition for the Women of Steel - Sheffield City Council has approved plans for a permanent memorial in the city (location to be decided) to mark their contribution to the war effort.

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