A 100-year-old has received an honorary doctorate in Engineering from Sheffield University following her campaign to get the city’s Women of Steel recognised.

Kathleen Roberts has become the oldest person to ever receive an honorary degree from Sheffield Uni as she strives to encourage girls to go into engineering.

100-year-old gets honorary doctorate

Roberts worked in the steelworks during the war, alongside other female steelworkers. Despite their hard work, the women were not shown gratitude or ever truly recognised, something which Roberts set out to change.

Speaking about her honorary degree, Roberts said she felt “honoured and privileged to accept it on behalf of all those Women of Steel who contributed to the war effort”.

‘During the Women of Steel campaign, I had the pleasure of meeting some female engineering students who will now be well on their way to an engineering career. My advice to students would be to get as much hands-on experience as you can. You can’t learn everything in a book,’ she said.

Kathleen Roberts Women of Steel campaign

At the beginning of World War II, Roberts was called up to work in the steelworks while the men went off to fight. When they returned, the women who manned the steelworks during the war were dismissed without a thanks.

Roberts was only 18 at the time and had to work 72 hour weeks. In 2009, whilst watching a documentary about the Women’s Land Army, Roberts realised that others were being recognised for their wartime efforts, while Sheffield’s Women of Steel had been overlooked for years.

Her campaign involved concerts being organised, cake sales being held, and coffee mornings put on. Roberts also received an invitation from the Prime Minister to meet at 10 Downing Street. Almost £170,000 was raised, and the campaign officially ended in 2016 when a statue was unveiled in Barker’s Pool.

Sheffield University reports that the conditions in the steelworks were poor, and while the exact number of women who worked there is not known, it is estimated to be hundreds or thousands ‘from all manner of backgrounds.’

The work included jobs such as operating heavy machinery and driving cranes.