Search engine giant Google is celebrating the 151st birth anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji, the first Indian woman lawyer. From being the first Indian student in Somerville College, Sorabji was also the first Indian woman to study at any British University. She joined the college in the autumn of 1889. Born in Nashik on November 15, 1866, Sorabji became the first woman to matriculate in erstwhile Bombay in 1883.
Cornelia, the first Indian female law student at Oxford continues to provide a pioneering link between India and the prestigious varsity. Sorabji was an Indian Parsi Christian who despite standing first in university examinations at the Deccan College was not eligible for the Government of India scholarship to study in England. But she refused to give up and went on to study at Oxford with the help of funds raised by her British friends.
On her return, she struggled for 10 long years to persuade anyone to give her full-time employment in law. Later, she became the first woman to practise law in India and worked on behalf of women living in purdah. Her lifetimes work as a social reformer centred on support for the poor and for women at every level of society. Her memoir India Calling documents the number of prominent establishment figures she met during her time in Britain. She lived in Lincoln’s Inn throughout World War 2 from 1939. She died in her home at Finsbury Park in London in 1954.