On 15 November, Google is commemorating the 151st birth anniversary of Cornelia Sorabji in its doodle. Sorabji was the first woman to practice law in India.
Sorabji was also the first woman to graduate from Bombay University. Later, she also became the first Indian woman to study law in 1892 from the Oxford University. Till 1922, Oxford was known not to confer degrees to women. And since she could not practice law in England, she returned to India.
However, her legal journey in India was not a cakewalk. She faced resistance when it came to practicing law in India as it was an exclusively male-dominated profession back then.
Yet, she continued to struggle and eventually, she was not only allowed to practice law in India but she also became the legal advisor to the Indian government in representing the purdahnashins.
Purdahnashins is a term given to a veiled woman or those who practiced the purdah. Social customs demanded these women to remain within their domestic space. They were not allowed to interact with men in public spaces.
The problem would arise when these women would be widowed. Considering they were moulded in terms of the social customs, they could not seek legal help for their rights. These rights included control over the estates left by their husbands. Sorabji came into the picture and fought for the rights of these women, who would be bereft of their rights when widowed.
Sorabji's pivotal role in the cause for the rights of these purdahnashins also gave them an opportunity to train themselves in nursing. Sorabji, thereby ensured that these women could step into the public space. In her own way, Sorabji ended up empowering these women.
Google Doodle is celebrating her persistence and the fact that she broke the glass ceiling at a time when women were not even allowed to engage with the society.
The doodle shows Cornelia Sorabji in front of Allahabad High Court, where she was allowed to practice law only after the ban on women lawyers was lifted in 1923. The Doodle was conceptualised by Jasjyot Singh Hans and you can check out the multiple drafts of this Doodle on this page. The reach of the Doodle is limited to India.