The women who built ‘The Ladies’ Bridge’: Female workers who helped construct Waterloo Bridge during WWII are finally honoured 70 years on

  • Women played a key role in building Waterloo Bridge from 1937 to 1945
  • Its National Heritage List info updated to include role played by women

Millions of of people cross Waterloo Bridge every year, but few of them know the important role played by dozens of women in its construction.
Around 25,000 women were working in construction towards the end of the Second World War, and some were vital during the process of building of the iconic London bridge.
Now, more than 70 years later, their importance in its erection has finally been officially recognised as part of its protected status.

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(Working 9 to 5: A group of female acetylene welders cutting the girders of the temporary Waterloo Bridge, as it is being dismantled in 1944)

The Grade II* listed bridge has been relisted on the National Heritage List to include information on the role played by women in its construction from 1937 to 1945.
The relisting by heritage minister Tracey Crouch was recommended by government heritage agency Historic England at the start of the #builtbywomen campaign to recognise women’s involvement in building in England, and marks National Women in Engineering Day.

Ms Crouch is leading a call for information on other historic structures built or designed by women to better recognise their role in shaping historic places, which could lead to new additions to the 400,000-strong list of England’s protected buildings and sites.
Though it is nicknamed ‘the Ladies’ Bridge’ by tour guides on the river, the role of women in Waterloo Bridge’s construction was largely forgotten.
But historian Christine Wall has uncovered evidence confirming the involvement of women, which has been properly recorded on the National Heritage List for England.

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(Final rest: Dorothy, a female welder cleaning her face whilst working at Waterloo Bridge, in 1944, one of some 25,000 women working in construction towards the end of the Second World War)

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(Hard at work: Dorothy is also pictured while working on the bridge, which spans the Thames in London)

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(On the list: The key role played by women in building London’s Waterloo Bridge during the Second World War has been officially recognised as part of its protected status)

Emily Gee, head of designation at Historic England, said: ‘Women have always been involved in shaping places – through patronage, design, labour, craftsmanship, alteration and decoration.
‘These roles have historically been overlooked, but as important research, understanding and awareness reveals their hands, it can illuminate many fascinating and inspiring stories.
‘We hope that, through our call for evidence, we can draw on others’ research and record the role of women in the National Heritage List for England. The list is a vital national asset for recording England’s history.’
Ms Crouch said: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to ensure our great female engineers are properly recognised.
‘This project will show the remarkable achievements of the women who broke conventions to help build Britain and inspire the next generation of female engineers, architects and builders.’

Source: Mail Online – SARA MALM