Google doodle celebrates Cornelia Sorabji, India's pioneer woman lawyer

16 November, 2017, 02:28 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Cornelia Sorabji

Cornelia Sorabji, India's first woman lawyer, is today's Google Doodle.

Sorabji is also credited to be the first woman ever to graduate from the Bombay University as well as the first to read law at Oxford.

Upon returning to India in 1894, she plunged into social service and legal advisory work, especially for "purda-nashin" women from wealthy or royal families, who had no means to defend their wealth and properties, but Sorabji secured special permission to file pleas on their behalf, yet could not represent them in the courts. She was one of nine children of Reverend Sorabji Karsedji and his wife, Francina Ford, who had been adopted and raised by a British couple.

After leaving school, Cornelia joined Bombay University and was the only girl among 300 boys in Deccan College, Pune.

Sorabji was the first woman permitted to attend Bombay University, where she excelled. Through her reforms, strong views, she brought a movement in our nation, which is helping many women achieve their dreams and passion.

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She vigorously fought for the rights of purdahnashins also earned a right to be trained them in nursing for providing them with an opportunity to work outside their home. Designed by illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans, the Google homepage shows a white-wigged Sorabji, dressed in a lawyer's black robe, in front of the Allahabad High Court. That itself would've entitled her to further study in England but she was denied the scholarship.

In 1924, the legal profession was opened to women in India, and Sorabji began practising in Kolkata. "These women were first child brides and then widows, with children of their own, and large estates, which in widowhood they could not protect, because they could see no lawyer, since all lawyers were male".

It is estimated that over due course of time, Sorabji helped over 600 women and orphans fight legal battles, sometimes at no charge. She was not recognized as an advocate in the Allahabad High Court even after passing the exams for it, until 1923, when the laws finally changed. It was then that she started practicing in Calcutta. She would later write about many of these cases in her work Between the Twilights and her two autobiographies. Divya Sharma was Somerville's first Cornelia Sorabji Scholar and was soon followed by Navya Jannu.

- Sorabji retired from the high court in 1929, and settled in London, visiting India during the winters.

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