Sheffield's brave Women Of Steel, who kept the munitions factories going to help win two world wars, are to be finally honoured with medals as well as a statue they deserved a lifetime ago - thanks to YOU!
Hundreds of medals have been funded with extra money raised beyond an initial £150,000 for a statue in a Star backed appeal.
Today we can also reveal the statue is to be unveiled in Barkers Pool, outside the blitz marked Sheffield City Hall - where the ladies had tea dances during WWII - on Friday, June 17.
The medals will be handed out on the same day to surviving Women Of Steel - now in their 90s - and to families of those who have sadly passed.
One side has a picture of the statue and the other is engraved: “With thanks to our wartime Women of Steel from the people of Sheffield”.
It is envisaged around 500 will be given out and the search is now on to find all the women who worked in the city's steel works, during both world wars.
The women, or their families, are being urged to apply from today with a media event outside the City Hall attended by four of the women themselves, Kathleen Roberts, Kit Sollitt, Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby, who have been figureheads during the campaign.
Kathleen, aged 94, one of the women, was thrilled to hear they will get a medal. She said of the statue: "This has kept us going. It's all we've been living for. We've all had our problems but we want to be there for this. If we were not there it wouldn't be the same.
"When we've done the unveiling my mission is accomplished. I was so determined the see women finally recognised for what we did. We flogged ourselves to death during the war. Now they won;t forget us. It's like a dream come true."
There is a strict criteria with application forms available from the receptions at The Star, in York Street and Sheffield Town Hall.
The Star's former assistant editor Paul License launched a campaign to get the women the recognition they deserved and the paper's Nancy Fielder highlighted the cause which resulted in her escorting a party of them six years ago to 10 Downing Street.
Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown officially publicly thanked the ladies for the first time.
Sheffield City Council launched a statue appeal which stalled around £30,000 until fundraising champions John Palmer, former communications director at Sheffield Hallam University and The Star's digital editor Graham Walker got involved.
They rebooted the appeal and gave it a huge boost in 2013 by organising with Sheffield pop hits king Eliot Kennedy a South Yorkshire music legends concert - featuring Tony Christie, Heaven 17, ABC's Martin Fry, John Parr, John Reilly, John Shuttleworth, Baby Bird, Toby Foster and a galaxy of other stars.
The sell-out concert at the City Hall raised £70,000 and caught the public imagination. Within a year there were also classical and folk concerts, featuring more big names the liek of Faye Heald and Martin Simpson , and hundreds of people organised events and made donations, smashing the original target and raising almost £170,000. More than £21,000 was raised at an annual ball marking the start of the World Snooker Championship. World Snooker also donated £5,000 to the appeal.
The medal, designed by The Star's own Simon Waller and based on the design of the statue by Martin Jennings, will be produced by Sheffield Assay Office, with the support of Ashley Carson.
The Star's Graham Walker said: "We are delighted to be in a position to do even more than a statue and to honour all our Women Of Steel with a medal, which they should have had a lifetime ago. And it's all thanks to the incredible generosity of our readers, the people of Sheffield, South Yorkshire and beyond. June 17 is going to be a very special and emotional day for us all."
John Palmer added: “When we knew there would be extra money, we decided that we should give the women something personal that they and their families could keep. A medallion produced by Sheffield’s Assay Office and reflecting the statue seemed a perfect way to say thank you and now we want to make sure that every woman who deserves one will actually get one.”
Julie Dore, Sheffield City Council leader, said: “We are delighted to be able to announce that the Women of Steel statue will be unveiled on 17 June.
“It just goes to show what a special place these inspirational Women of Steel hold in the hearts of everyone in Sheffield. This has been about ordinary people giving their hard earned money to remember something very special in the history of our city.”
“We hope that everyone who supported the appeal by running marathons; baking cakes; organising events and making donations will join us for the unveiling to make it a really special day for the city and the Women of Steel”.
* Medals will be issued on June 17 to all successful applications made by May 20 - but applications will remain open beyond that time.
Editorial Opinion: We salute our Women Of Steel
When the sirens sounded to warn Sheffield that Nazi bombers were on their way, most people dashed for air raid shelters - but not the Women Of Steel.
These bravest of the brave, the city’s wartime heroines, had a job to do.
They had replaced their menfolk in the steelworks to keep the munitions factories going, making the bullets and bombs to win the fight for freedom.
But they were never publicly thanked or recognised. Until now.
Today we honour the women, of two world wars, by announcing not only that a statue in their honour will be unveiled in June - but they are also to get a medal.
Their back-breaking courage is finally being honoured thanks to you, our readers, after a Star-driven campaign raised almost £170,000, smashing the statue target and paying for hundreds of medals.
It’s something these women should have had a lifetime ago. Many of them, sadly, have passed away, but at least their families can now celebrate the honour and apply for a medal which will keep their stories alive forever.
The big day itself is Friday, June 17 - make a note in your diaries and turn out in force - for the unveiling of the statue.
That’s the day the surviving women, now in their 90s, and families of those who are no longer with us, will have a long-overdue celebration.
And we are delighted for four surviving Women Of Steel in particular, who have championed the cause of them all, now in wheelchairs or walking with sticks but still going strong - Kathleen Roberts, Kit Sollitt, Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby,
They tell us that the campaign has kept them going. It’s given them a purpose in life, to get the recognition all the women deserved.
Let’s not forget former Star assistant editor Paul License, our own Nancy Fielder, Graham Walker and Simon Waller, who with fundraising champion John Palmer, council leader Julie Dore, Andrew Skelton and the Sheffield Assay Office’s Ashley Carson have all played a major role in the campaign, statue and medal.
Then there is a whole host of celebrity names - including Tony Christie, Heaven 17, ABC’s Martin Fry, Eliot Kennedy, John Parr, John Reilly, John Shuttleworth, Baby Bird, Faye Heald, Martin Simpson, Joann Fletcher, Dean Andrews and a galaxy of other stars, who took part in huge concerts.
And of course you, our readers, who don’t do things by half. You did everything from coffee mornings and baking to running marathons and even producing special beer, to help us make this happen.
Today we salute you all.