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Tributes to 'amazing' Stella Cunliffe

By Leatherhead Advertiser  |  Posted: January 26, 2012

  • Stella Cunliffe was the first female president of the Royal Statistical Society

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AN "AMAZING" woman whose achievements included being the first female president of the Royal Statistical Society, has died at the age of 95.

Stella Cunliffe served as a district councillor in Ashtead for 18 years and many people in the village have expressed their sadness on hearing of her death.

Before retirement she was a prominent statistician and civil servant, becoming the first woman to be appointed director of statistics at the Home Office, and was appointed MBE in 1993.

Her nephew Dr Ian Cunliffe, from Guildford, said: "Stella was the last member of her generation of Cunliffes and she will be remembered extremely fondly by every member of the family.

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"Her indomitable spirit remained with her to the end and, while we are naturally very sad at her passing, we are very proud of her achievements.

"She led an amazingly full and varied life and she was immensely kind, generous and loyal to her family and to her many friends, and she will be sorely missed by all."

Miss Cunliffe was born in Battersea in 1917 and attended Parsons Mead school after moving to Ashtead, before reading statistics at the London School of Economics.

At the end of the Second World War she interrupted her career to do relief work in Europe with the Guide International Service and she remained involved with the Guides late into her life, serving on the governing council.

Blanche Douglass, from Ashtead, told the Advertiser: "I first met her when I was about 11 years old. I was a little Girlguide and she was our district commissioner and I used to trot to her house to be tested for my badges.

"She has so many friends and colleagues in Ashtead. We won't see anyone like her again, she was a wonderful woman."

Despite working for Guinness for 25 years, Miss Cunliffe was unable to become a director because she a woman, so she left to become head of the Research Unit into Crime at the Home Office, later being promoted to director of statistics.

She worked closely with Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, and her research helped influence many of his key decisions, including the abolition of capital punishment.

Miss Cunliffe, who died in Downsvale Nursing Home in Dorking last Thursday, served as an independent district councillor for Ashtead Village ward from 1981 to 1999.

Larry Unthank, from Ashtead, said: "Stella was an extraordinary lady and a super councillor who didn't stand on ceremony but simply got things done."

A private cremation service will be held for the family, but a thanksgiving service will be held at St George's before Easter.

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