9 November 2017

Sheffield’s brilliant Women of Steel have gone national!

Sheffield’s Women of Steel were proudly celebrated again last night (Wednesday 8 November) as critically acclaimed sculptor Martin Jennings picked up a national award for the public sculpture he created in their honour.

Martin’s Women of Steel statue, which was installed in Barker’s Pool, Sheffield in June 2016, won the PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Marsh award for Excellence in Public Sculpture at an awards ceremony in London yesterday.

It was a case of third-time lucky for Martin, who had been runner-up at previous awards for his sculptures of John Betjeman (St Pancras) and Charles Dickens (Portsmouth).

The statue was installed in honour of all the women who worked bravely and tirelessly to keep England going during two world wars. With most of the working age men away at war, the manufacturing at steel works and factories in Sheffield and the surrounding areas was more important than ever.

This was the historic time when Sheffield’s ‘Women of Steel’ came into their own and women from all over South Yorkshire, some as young as 14, were conscripted to work in steel works all over the region.

Sculptor Martin Jennings said: “I’m thrilled to have won this year’s PMSA Marsh Award for the Women of Steel sculpture. It stands as a tribute to the City Council who commissioned it, to the people of Sheffield and not least the women themselves who gave me so much inspiration.

“This project was very dear to my heart and I’m delighted that not only the monument itself but the historic achievement of all the Women of Steel has been given further national recognition.”

2.Martin Jennings, with Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester and Sheffield City Council’s Public Art Officer Andrew Skelton, after receiving the award
Martin Jennings, with Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester and Sheffield City Council’s Public Art Officer Andrew Skelton, after receiving the award

Following a campaign launched by Sheffield City Council, and spearheaded by four determined Women of Steel; Kathleen Roberts, Ruby Gascoigne, Dorothy Slingsby and Kit Sollitt, to create a lasting memorial, more than £150,000 was donated by members of the public.

Martin was selected by the four women to create a permanent sculpture and worked with them to design the preferred memorial.

On 17 June 2016 around 3,000 people turned out in person to honour the women at the statue unveiling ceremony. The Women of Steel statue stands proudly in Barker’s Pool, Sheffield as a lasting reminder and thank you.

Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “This is wonderful news and I’m thrilled that Martin achieved this award representing our strong, incredible women.

“After only eighteen months since the unveiling the statue has already become an important part of the landscape of Sheffield city centre and has become a symbolic landmark. A beautiful lasting legacy of Sheffield’s formidable Women of Steel has been created that truly captures the essence of what those women stood for and went through.”

“When we launched the campaign to raise money for a permanent memorial, we were overwhelmed by the response from people in our region, reinforcing the grit and determination of this city. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed because without their support and kind donations this would not have been possible.”

Woman of Steel and campaigner, Kathleen Roberts said: “I think it’s absolutely marvellous, I’m speechless. For our statue to receive this award it makes the hard graft we did all those years ago and our efforts to raise money for the memorial even more worthwhile.

“On behalf of all the Women of Steel I am proud and delighted.”

The PMSA is a national body of professionals concerned with promoting, recording and publicising public sculptures, monuments and statues. They organise awards once a year, traveling the country looking at countless new public works of art. This year was no exception, with Jennings’ Women of Steel sculpture up against some very strong competition.

Also shortlisted for the award was:

  • His Mind’s Eye Tree by Jill Berelowitz
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Wars Memorial by Paul Day
  • Four brick relief sculptures by Rodney Harris and Valda Jackson
  • Mary Seacole by Martin Jennings
  • Oatlands Girl by Rob Mulholland
  • Known and Unknown (International Asbestos Memorial) by Jephson Robb
  • The Great War Memorial by Lee Simmons
  • Origin by Julian Wild

The award was presented to Martin Jennings by the Duke of Gloucester, Prince Richard.

Previous winners have included sculpture greats like Anthony Gormley, Richard Wilson and David Nash.