• 26th March 2024

Women’s History Month – March 2024

Women have often been ignored in the telling of human history, if not actively removed; the pen has very much been in male hands. Women’s History Month is the opportunity to highlight and celebrate those they wanted us to forget.

The Ladies’ Bridge

You may know it better as ‘Waterloo Bridge’, but for 50 years the ‘Ladies’ Bridge’ was a popular story, surviving only as rumour passed down the generations, that the majority of the workers that built Waterloo Bridge in London were women.


Although well-known that women went out to work during WWII to supplement the labour gap left by men fighting abroad, there is very little documentation around their work in construction. Plenty of photographic evidence exists of women in munitions factories, driving fire engines and working in other wartime industries, but for many years, nothing could be found to provide evidence that women had been involved in any part of the construction of Waterloo Bridge. In fact, at the official opening, the Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Herbet Morrison, included this statement in his speech:

“The men who built Waterloo Bridge are fortunate men. They know that although their names may be forgotten, their work will be a pride and use to London for many generations to come.”

The women workers, it seems, were already being erased from history.

In 2005, a documentary by Christine Wall, Karen Livesey and Jo Wiser set out to uncover the truth. They gathered many eye-witness accounts who spoke of the roles carried out by women working on the bridge including dismantling, welding and vehicle operation. However, they came to a dead-end when it came to official records, as the company that had hired the workers went into liquidation in 1980s.

However, their break-through came with a visit to the archives of the National Science and Media Museum, where Hall finally unearthed the pictorial evidence they were looking for: a photograph of three women at work dismantling the old bridge, and another of a female welder named Dorothy, in 1944.

Historic England finally recognised women’s contribution to the building of Waterloo Bridge in 2015, with a Grade II re-listing. However, a campaign remains ongoing to have a blue plaque installed on the bridge, as a tribute to the women that built it.

For the full story, check out this article by Jessica Beasley for ICE, and view the documentary ‘The Ladies’ Bridge’ here.


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