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Cornelia Sorabji: India’s First Woman Lawyer

Past display archive
17 December 2012 - 11 August 2013

Room 31: case display


Cornelia Sorabji
by Lafayette
20 June 1930
NPG x70450

While women in Britain were campaigning for the right to vote, Cornelia Sorabji became the first woman to practise law in India. After she received a first class degree from Bombay University in 1888, British supporters helped to send her to Oxford University. Here, Sorabji became the first woman to sit the Civil Law exams but was not able to graduate as women could not be awarded degrees until 1920. She returned to India in 1894. After a long struggle with the authorities, she became legal advocate for women in purdah, whose religious and cultural beliefs prevented them from speaking to men outside their family. From Oxford to India, the photographs in this display explore Sorabji’s life and remarkable achievements.

© National Portrait Gallery, London