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Cornelia Sorabji

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Cornelia Sorabji

by Lafayette
whole-plate film negative, 20 June 1930
Given by Victoria & Albert Museum via Pinewood Studios, 1989
Photographs Collection
NPG x70450

Sitterback to top

  • Cornelia Sorabji (1866-1954), Barrister and Social Reformer. Sitter in 2 portraits.

Artistback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 97 Read entry

    In 2016, Somerville College, Oxford, announced a Scholarship in Law for Indian women postgraduates, in honour of Cornelia Sorabji (1866-1954), India’s first female lawyer and the first Indian woman to study at Oxford. Sorabji, whose life is a testament to defying gender bias, was Bombay University’s first female graduate (1887). After she was refused funding to read law in Britain, supporters, including Florence Nightingale, helped her to do so. Although she was allowed to sit the Civil Law examinations while at Oxford (from 1889 to 1892), she was not able to graduate, as women were ineligible until 1920. (She eventually graduated in 1922.) From 1904, after a decade of struggling with the authorities back in India, she became a government legal adviser for women living in purdah. She was called to the Bar at Lincoln’s Inn, London, in 1923 (the year that women were first admitted). Returning to India as a barrister, she resumed her work with ‘purdahnashins’ (secluded women). Against all odds, she was stalwart in the fight for social reform, her focus on women and the poor.

  • Birkett, Dea; Morris, Jan (foreword), Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, 2004 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 7 July to 31 October 2004), p. 135

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Subject/Themeback to top

Events of 1930back to top

Current affairs

Amy Johnson is the first woman to fly solo to Australia. She flew the 11,000 miles from Croydon to Darwin in a De Havilland Gipsy Moth named Jason and won the Harmon Trophy as well as a CBE for her achievement. She went on to break a number of other flying records, and died while serving in the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1941.

Art and science

Noel Coward's play, Private Lives is first performed. The original run starred Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Olivier as well as Coward himself. Private Lives became Coward's most enduringly successful play.

International

Gandhi leads the Salt March. The march to the coast was a direct protest against the British monopoly on the sale of salt and inspired hordes of Indians to follow him and adopt his methods of Satyagraha (non-violent resistance to the British rule of India).
Stalin orders the 'liquidation of the kulaks (wealthy farmers) as a class' in a violent attempt to centralise control of agriculture and collectivise farming.

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