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Local News

The inspirational Sheffield women who made a huge sacrifice for their country

today05/04/2021

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A year after the massive success of Women of Steel, a book about the unsung heroes who kept the war machine going from Sheffield’s factories during World War II, Michelle Rawlins is back to introduce The Steel Girls.

While Women of Steel was a non-fictional book about real heroes – heroes who are still, more than 75 years after the end of the war, walking among us, The Steel Girls is the very first of a series of fictional stories based on real-life stories and tales.

Michelle Rawlins, the author, has told Yorkshire Live that it took two years for her to do her research for Women of Steel and she wanted to remain authentic and real in the second book despite the characters were hers.

She said: “Women of Steel gave me a really good understanding and insight what women went through during both World Wars to help keep the factories alive.

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“I could have not written the Steel Girls if I had not have researched Women of Steel because it is deep in history and historical facts.

“The only way I could have understood those women and their lives, either if it is a fiction book or a non-fiction if I am doing serious research.”

The Steel Girls follows three women who came from different backgrounds and families but realised sooner than later that they have to help the country and their loved ones on the frontiers – even if it required a massive sacrifice from them.

Michelle said: “We based the characters on real people. For instance, I interviewed so many women like Betty, who I could imagine as the sort of formidable woman who took control in a difficult situation facing adversity.

(Image: Michelle Rawlins)

“Nancy, at the same time, was a very typical woman – one of those many who had to leave small children at home with the neighbours or relatives.

“The guilt those mums felt about leaving their children at home to go out and work and missing precious parts of their childhood was tremendous.

“She represents so many of those working mums in World War I and II – their fears, their concerns with their husbands being away at war.

“Patty, however, was supposed to be the fun element in the book. She was a young girl, 17 at the time, did not have many cares of the world.

“She spent her wages on makeups and such and only decided to join the factory to find a boyfriend.

“However, suddenly she had to grow up very quickly. She realised that joining the factories was not a walk in the park. It is dangerous.

“Accident did happen during the war in the factories – a lot of people died or suffered serious injuries.

“I do not think you can write a book about that age and work without talking about how dangerous it was for the workers.”

The book has been so authentic you can hear the accent while reading, I told Michelle. She said she and her editors had to find the fine line where local dialect helps the book and not chase the readers away.

She said: “It was really important to me to use local dialect and bring in local sight and landmark.

“I wanted the people reading to book to feel they are in Sheffield in 1939. The dialect is always something you need to be careful with.

“You need to find the balance because if you write a book too much dialect it might put some people off as they do not know what you are talking about.”

As we all know, women had a significant role in winning the war against Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler.

However, women workers had to fight their fights in the factories with men who thought they were not fit for the job.

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In the book, as in the real-life back in the 1940s, women showed their grit and eventually men had to accept that they need them.

Michelle said: “While interviewing women for my first book, it came across that there were two quite distinct types of experience: lots of the women said they were felt very welcomed and there were some who met a rather hostile environment in the factory.

“Do not forget, it was a very traditional society, and men thought women were unable to do the job.

“It was important to me to show that the country needed the women, and they answered the call.”

Michelle Rawlins’ book, The Steel Girls will be released on April 15.

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today05/04/2021


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