Sheffield Woman of Steel Ruby Gascoigne dies

The unveiling of the Women of Steel statue.
The unveiling of the Women of Steel statue.

One of Sheffield's campaigning Women of Steel Ruby Gascoigne has died aged 95.

Ruby was one of the leading forces in the city’s bid to get official recognition for the women who kept the Sheffield steelworks producing munitions that helped win two world wars.

Ruby Gascoigne.

Ruby Gascoigne.

The great-great grandmother has battled cancer in the last few years and died after a short illness in the early hours of this morning.

Her son Kevin, aged 60, paid tribute to a 'true Woman of Steel'.

He said: "The way my mum and the other 'Women of Steel' campaigned for recognition was truly inspiring.

"My mum loved to talk and loved to make her family laugh.

Women Of Steel survivors with their statue in Barker's Pool outside Sheffield City Hall.

Women Of Steel survivors with their statue in Barker's Pool outside Sheffield City Hall.

"She was a true character and very strong right up until the every end. She really was a Woman of Steel."

Ruby was one of the four Women Of Steel figureheads - which also included Kathleen Roberts, Kit Sollitt and Dorothy Slingsby - who led a public fundraising appeal for a lasting tribute honouring women's often unsung efforts during the world wars.

While most men of working age were away at war, the manufacturing at steel works and factories in Sheffield was more important than ever.

This was the historic time when Sheffield’s Women of Steel came into their own, working day and night to ensure everything from bullets to bombs were manufactured to keep the war effort going.

L to R:- Kathleen Roberts, Kitty Sollitt, Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby.

L to R:- Kathleen Roberts, Kitty Sollitt, Ruby Gascoigne and Dorothy Slingsby.

But after the war they were throw out of their jobs as the men returned and they were never publicly acknowledged, until the Women of Steel with support from the Star launched their campaign several years ago.

Ruby and her colleagues met then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and were invited by the Queen to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace during their quest for recognition.

The fundraising appeal raised a whopping £170, 000 and the Women of Steel statue was unveiled in Barker's Pool last summer.

Kevin said: "That was one of the proudest days of my mum's life. She was so thankful that finally the hard-working women of the war effort had gotten recognition for the role they played.

Flowers at the statue.

Flowers at the statue.

"She talked about it quite often and said she learned the lessons of life working in those munitions factories.

"She loved telling stories to her grandchildren about her time during the war, and they loved hearing about them."

Ruby worked at Flathers munitions factory in Tinsley from 1939, then left to have her son Graham in 1942, before returning again to work there until the end of the war.

Ruby worked on creating portable harbours that were used in the Normandy landings.

She later worked as a cook in children's homes across Sheffield.

A book was written about her eventful life entitled 'A Woman of Steel: Ruby - A Diamond Forever' and released in 2012.

Ruby was born in Darnall and later lived near City Road.

Her husband Frank died in 1983 and she had five sons, 11 grandchildren and numerous great and great-great-grandchildren.

She died at Westbourne House Nursing Home.

Funeral arrangements are yet to be made but the family said flowers would be laid at the statue after the service. Some flowers have already been laid at the statue.

Ruby's death comes less than 12 months after fellow Woman of Steel Dorothy Slingsby died aged 95 on Christmas Eve last year.