On the day before the Women of Steel statue is unveiled in Sheffield city centre, we hear directly from one of these inspirational women.
Alma Bottomley tells the story of her experiences:
“I was about 12 when the war broke out. We would go down into the cellar when bombs were being dumped by the aeroplanes flying over Bolton upon Dearne where we lived. I remember my dad saying they were dropping them at random, and I was so young I didn’t know what the word meant, and thought “Where is Random? And those poor people that live there.” We were all so relieved when the sirens went at the end of a raid.
“I started working at Firth Brown Steels when I was 15, more or less straight from school. My sister was already working there when I started. But to be honest, it wasn’t very pleasant. We got on alright because we were all good friends, but it was hard and heavy work. It is took its toll mentally as well as physically. It sometimes made you feel very low.
“I was a molder and my job was to lift iron boxes off a conveyor belt and onto a machine. I was making links for the tread on tanks. I remember it was so noisy and hot. My sister Hazel was working on another part of the production, inspecting and grinding off any impurities or lumps and bumps on the links.
“But I was still a teenage girl. When you’re 15 you don’t want to wear the beige overalls that they give you. I dyed mine and turned them into dungarees so I could still be a little bit individual.
“The machine we were working on would flick horrible oily, black, sandy stuff onto our hair, and you ended up with bits of broken hair if you weren’t careful.
“We did have some good times at the steel works. I remember songs, and an amateur show we used to put on. In those days you took things as they came; we just got on with it. Everybody had to do their bit.”