Google Doodle pays tribute to yet another illustrious Indian woman within a span of a week, after honouring Anasuya Sarabhai last Saturday.
This time, the focus is on the 151st birth anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji, and hers is the story of many firsts, that exudes both awe and inspiration.
She was the first woman to practice law in India and Britain, the first woman to graduate from Bombay University and also became the first woman to read law at Oxford University.
Born on November 15, 1866, in Nashik, Cornelia Sorabji was one of the nine children born to Reverend Sorabji Karsedji and Francina Ford. Her parents strongly believed in women’s education and had a profound influence on Cornelia’s life and career.
After completing her education from Bombay University, Cornelia applied to the National Indian Association for help to pursue her education in the UK. Luminaries like Florence Nightingale, Mary Hobhouse, Adelaide Manning and Sir William Wedderburn contributed financial assistance so that this young woman could follow her dreams.
At that time, it was a big achievement for a woman to secure admission to a foreign university, especially Oxford. She studied Law and though she completed the course in 1894, she was allowed to sit for her exams, only when her friends petitioned on her behalf. She did not receive a degree as the University began awarding them to women only from 1922.
Despite the struggles, Cornelia did not waver in her commitment to help those who needed legal support. She returned to India and took up the cause of the purdahnashins, women who are forbidden to talk to men outside the family.
Meanwhile, Cornelia appeared for the LLB examination of Bombay University in 1897 and the pleader’s examination of Allahabad High Court in 1899. However, since the law barred women from practising, she could not become a barrister until the laws changed in 1923 to allow women to enter the profession.
In the male-dominated legal world, she continued her work and was finally rewarded for her efforts when she appointed the Lady Assistant to the Courts of Wards of Bengal.
She retired from law in 1929 and settled in London. She died on July 6, 1954.
The Google Doodle on Cornelia Sorabji has been illustrated by Jasjyot Singh Hans, and depicts her in front of the Allahabad High Court, to which she was eventually admitted.
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