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Cornelia Sorabji: India’s First Woman Barrister


While women in Britain were campaigning for the right to vote, Cornelia Sorabji became the first woman to practise law in India. Here are a few things that you should know about the woman who was a contemporary of Sarojini Naidu.

 


In the later 19th century, while a woman was accepted in the field of teaching and medicine was slowly opening up, law was a closed case. In 1894, Cornelia returned home to India after studying law from Oxford. It was only by 1924 that women were officially permitted to practice law in India.

What was she doing before all the while? Well, she couldn’t practice law in courts so she accepted the invitation of Maharajas who regaled in their trivialities!

In one such case she was ordered to defend an elephant, against the Maharaja himself. The judge presiding the case? Also the Maharaja.

Quite an intriguing personality she was!

She was an Indian whose loyalty to the British Raj never wavered; a passionate advocate of women’s rights whose own career was nearly compromised through her inappropriate relationship with a married man; and, an independent and free-thinking intellectual who depended for work on patronage from an elite circle.

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