Google Doodle celebrates 151st Birthday of Cornelia Sorabji, India's first female advocate

Nov 15, 2017 10:00 IST
Cornelia Sorabji, India's first female advocate

Google Doodle on 15 November 2017 honoured Cornelia Sorabji, India's first female advocate, on her 151st Birthday. Sorabji was the first woman to graduate in law from India in 1892 and was the first Indian citizen to attend a British University.

Jasjyot Singh Hans created the Google doodle with Sorabji in front of the Allahabad High Court, where she started her career as pleader.

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Journey of Cornelia Sorabji to become India's first female advocate
• Cornelia was born on 15 November 1866 in Nashik in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency of colonial India.
• Her parents were advocates of women's education and encouraged her to take higher studies.
• Cornelia enrolled for Law course at the Oxford University, which was not at all an easy task. It was a time when universities refused to accept female students.
• The National Indian Association came to Cornelia's help. Her English friends petitioned on her behalf to allow her to sit for Civil Laws exam at Somerville College, Oxford.
• In 1894, she completed her course, but the University didn't award her a degree. Oxford University started awarding degrees to women only after 1922.
• Although she completed her education, she was not allowed to plead in courts both in England as well as India.
• Later, after becoming a legal advisor in India, Cornelia took the cause of purdahnashins, the women who were asked to cover their face and were forbidden to interact with men outside their families.
• She helped widowed purdahnashins in getting their share of the property and helped them in pursuing education and secure employment.
• Soon, she succeeded in pursuing the government to appoint Lady Assistants to the courts to help women litigants.
• All over again, Cornelia appeared for LLB examination in Bombay University with an aim to obtain a law degree. She became the first woman graduate of Bombay University.
• In 1899, she cleared the pleader examination in Allahabad High Court but she was not acknowledged as a barrister.
• In 1923, colonial courts allowed women advocates to present their cases. Following this, Cornelia began practicing in Kolkata in 1924.
• While practicing in courts, Cornelia had to fight male domination in courts in addition to pleading for her clients.
• She also published two autobiographies 'India Calling: The Memories of Cornelia Sorabji' and 'India Recalled', a biography of her parents and numerous articles on Purdahnashins.
• She died in London in 1954.

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