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Google doodle pays tribute to India's first woman lawyer Cornelia Sorabji

15 November 2017

Following her birth anniversary today Google Doodle pays heartily tribute to Sorabji who overcome all the obstacles in life to be India's first female lawyer.

Besides being the first woman Indian lawyer, she had lot more "firsts" to her credit: the first woman to practice law in India and also in Britain, the first woman to go to Bombay University and the first Indian to study in Oxford University and the first woman to be allowed to study law at that university. After becoming the first female graduate of Bombay University, Sorabji wrote in 1888 to the National Indian Association for assistance in completing her education. Sorabji, in her career, fought for over 600 women and children and it is said that she did it pro bono. She was also the first woman to study in the UK. She returned to her homeland and became a legal advisor. The law was changed in 1923 and Sorabji was subsequently admitted to the Allahabad high court. However, a group of prominent personalities that included Florence Nightingale and Sir William Wedderburn came together to help get her scholarship and she finally went to England.

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Even after winning a scholarship to study in England, she was initially denied entry because she was a woman. After Sorabji completed her course from Somerville College, Oxford, in 1894, the University even didn't award her a degree.

Years later, Sorabji's exceptional talent and charisma was finally recognised in India and overseas, as her image as a feminist idol began to grow. In 1904, she was appointed Lady Assistant to the Court of Wards of Bengal.

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Subsequently, Sorabji presented herself for the LLB examination of Bombay University in 1897 and pleader's examination of Allahabad high court in 1899. She started to work in the provinces of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. She took up the case of "purdahnashins" of India-women who were not allowed to talk to men outside their family. It was then that she started practicing in Calcutta. Two autobiographical works of Cornelia are India Calling: The Memories of Cornelia Sorabji (1934) and India Recalled (1936).

Between 1900-1930s, she wrote around a dozen books including two autobiographical works; traveled extensively in India and the USA; helped her mother to found several girls' schools in and around Poona and penned articles for various Indian and British periodicals. She retired from law in high court in 1929 and died on July 6, 1954 at her London home.

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Google doodle pays tribute to India's first woman lawyer Cornelia Sorabji