New Delhi: Google Doodle on Wednesday celebrates Cornelia Sorabji, who overcame numerous obstacles to become India’s first female lawyer.
Sorabji was the first woman permitted to attend Bombay University, where she excelled. She then went on to become the first Indian woman to study law at Oxford University in 1892.
However, women were not awarded degrees by Oxford in those days (a rule that would eventually change 30 years later in 1922), making her unable to practice law in England. Sorabji returned to India in 1894 where she was again barred from practicing her profession. However, this didn’t deter her. She eventually became legal advisor to the government for the purdahnashins — veiled women forbidden by social custom from communicating with males from the outside world.
When widowed, these women were often entitled to their husbands’ estates, but their isolation prevented them from seeking legal help to enforce their rights (all lawyers being male). Sorabji tirelessly fought for the rights of the purdahnashins and even earned them the right to be trained in nursing, which gave them the opportunity to work outside their homes. Doodle by illustrator Jasjyot Singh Hans depicts Sorabji in front of the Allahabad High Court, to which she was eventually admitted.