A woman who led the way for other women

Posted on November 3, 2012

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CYPRUS’ first female lawyer, first cabinet minister, and first and only female attorney-general, Stella Soulioti, died on Thursday night in Limassol at the age of 92.
Throughout her life, Soulioti was the first among Cypriot women to obtain prominent positions.
She was Cyprus’ first female lawyer. She was the world’s and Cyprus’ first female Justice Minister serving for the newly formed Republic of Cyprus between 1960 and 1970. She was the island’s first law Commissioner between 1971 and 1984.
She then became the island’s first and only female attorney-general, between 1984 and 1988.
Soulioti was among the first Cypriot women to join the British air force when in 1943, the British administration asked women in Cyprus to join.
She left the force at the rank of lieutenant. Soulioti also headed the Cyprus Red Cross society between 1961 and 2004 and was on UNESCO’s executive board between 1987 and 1991.
She advised successive Cyprus governments on the Cyprus problem for decades from the sixties and wrote ‘Fettered Independence’, two volumes on Cyprus’ history between 1878 to 1964.
The president, cabinet members, politicians and political parties yesterday expressed their condolences to the family, hailing Soulioti as a pioneer of public life.
Foreign minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis said Soulioti was the archetype of the dignified politician, who paved the way for others.
“We are all poorer today,” she said. “At a time when women’s position in Cypriot society was difficult, she was an example to emulate,” the Green party said.
Law commissioner Leda Koursoumba said that Cyprus owed her thanks for keeping thorough records that enriched the state archives.
After the Turkish invasion of 1974, Soulioti was in essence a “state representative,” coordinating thousands of volunteers, Koursoumba said.
Cyprus Red Cross has declared a five-day mourning period until Tuesday.
“I will always refer to her as Mrs Soulioti,” said attorney-general Petros Clerides referring to a deference he said was always due to her.
Soulioti was born in 1920 in Limassol, one of the four children of Aggeliki and Sir Panayiotis. Her father was knighted by the British government in 1936, serving as a lawyer and public servant. Two of her siblings have already died: director Michael Cacoyannis and lawyer George – ‘Gogos’ – Cacoyannis. Her sister, Yiannoula Cacoyannis-Wakefield is the head of the Michael Cacoyannis foundation.
Soulioti’s daughter, a doctor, lives in London.
The funeral in Limassol is scheduled for Tuesday.

Posted in: obituary