Google doodle, on November 15, celebrated the 151st birth anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji — an inspiring woman with many firsts to her name. From being the first woman to practice law in India and Britain to being the first woman to graduate from Bombay university and then eventually becoming the first to study in any British university — Sorabji had many feathers to her hat.
She was born in the year 1866 in Bombay’s Nashik as one of the nine children to Reverend Sorabji Karsedji and his wife Francina Ford. Her father, apparently, was a key figure in facilitating women’s education and helping women get their degree education from Bombay university. Her mother too, is reported to have established many schools in Pune for girl child education.
Having become the first woman to complete education from Bombay University, she wrote to the National Indian Association asking for assistance to pursue further education and many like Florence Nightingale, Mary Hobhouse, Adelaide Manning, Sir William Wedderburn contributed to the funds that went into her education.
After completing her education at the Oxford University, when Sorabji returned to India, she began providing legal support to women known as purdahnashins, who weren’t allowed to have any communication with men, according to religious texts. These were women with property but did not know how to defend their cases legally because all lawyers back then were males.
In 1904, she was appointed the Lady Assistant to the Court of Wards of Bengal after she had petitioned for female legal representatives for women and minors in court. In 1924, the profession of law was finally opened to India, allowing them to fight cases in the court. Sorabji is believed to have helped over 600 women and children and often, is believed to have dispensed her service free of charge.
She also wrote short stories, articles and her autobiography ‘Between the Twilights’. She retired from law in high court in 1929 and died on July 6, 1954 at her London home.