Who was the First Woman Advocate of India? 

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Who was the First Woman Advocate of India?; Cornelia Sorabji

The First Woman Advocate of India was Cornelia Sorabji. However, till 1923 she was not recognised as a barrister because the law did not include women. Additionally, she was also the first woman to graduate from Bombay University as well as the first woman to study law at Oxford University. Cornelia was a remarkable woman who broke ground in the legal field and championed the cause of women in India. 

Who was Cornelia Sorabji?

Cornelia was born on the 15th of November 1866 in Nashik, Maharashtra and was the daughter of Francina Ford and Reverend Sorabji Karsedji.

  • The support for education for girls as well as the care for the underprivileged were passed down to Cornelia from her mother Francina.  
  • Moreover, her sister Susie Sorabji was a missionary and educator, and another sister Alice Pennell was a doctor. 
  • Cornelia made history as the first woman to enrol in Deccan College.
    • Her outstanding performance in the final degree examination earned her top marks in her cohort. 
    • This achievement should have entitled her to a government scholarship for further studies in England. 
    • However, she was denied this opportunity.
  • Additionally, she created history as the first woman to graduate from Bombay University, achieving a first-class degree in literature. 
  • In 1890, Cornelia again made history by becoming the first woman to be invited as a reader at the Codrington Library of All Souls College, Oxford, by Sir William Anson.
  • Furthermore, in 1892, she received special permission through a Congregational Decree, largely due to the efforts of her English friends, to sit for the post-graduate Bachelor of Civil Law exam at Somerville College, Oxford. This made her the first woman ever to undertake this exam.

Did you know? Cornelia was helped financially by Florence Nightingale and other women as well to pursue the rest of her education at Oxford. 

The Achievements of the First Woman Advocate of India 

Furthermore, the achievements of Cornelia are multifaceted. Here are some of the most notable:

  • Pioneering Legal Advocate: Upon returning to India, Cornelia faced an initial hurdle.
    • Though she had legal qualifications, she could not officially practice as a lawyer because she was a woman. 
    • Undeterred, she found innovative ways to help women, particularly those in purdah (seclusion) who faced social and legal challenges.
  • Champion for Women’s Rights: Cornelia became an essential advocate for women’s rights, particularly for those facing issues like child marriage, property rights, and domestic violence.
    • In addition, she provided legal advice and championed social reforms to improve the lives of women.
  • Overcoming Barriers: Cornelia persisted in her efforts to gain official recognition as an advocate.
    • She took examinations and eventually, in 1899, became the first woman advocate in India. 
    • However, full recognition as a barrister would not come until 1923, when laws barring women from practising were finally changed.
  • Social Reformer: Cornelia was also a passionate social reformer.
    • Moreover, she actively participated in various social service organizations, working to empower women and improve social conditions.

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Lastly, we hope you liked our blog and gained an understanding of the First Woman Advocate of India. Moreover, you may even read more blogs and empower yourself with knowledge regarding Civics and Polity! 

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