Cornelia Sorabji

First Woman to Study Law at Oxford & Advocate in India

Cornelia Sorabji dreamt long and hard about becoming a lawyer, even though in India in the late 1800’s women were just barely allowed to go to University at all, and were NOT permitted to law school or the court system as a whole. Born into a progressive, education-minded family, though, Cornelia was not deterred by these archaic laws – instead she gathers supporters and chases her dreams all the way to Oxford, where she becomes the first woman to study law and the first woman to be admitted to the men-only library.

What follows is a difficult pathway trying to weave her way into a men-only profession, but Cornelia is able to build a successful career defending the Purdahnashin (women who weren’t allowed to talk to men outside their family) who could not engage the services of male lawyers to defend themselves in cases of wrongdoing, neglect and abuse.

Her advocacy for this undefended population and her own success breaking down the male only walls of the British and Indian legal systems, make her an absolutely epic BYSK, but her name and achievements are pretty forgotten. Why? You’ll have to listen to find out!

“[she gave] a speech so eloquent, … the victory that night [and then the 1919 statute allowing women were] due to her career and her advocacy.’”

Helena Normanton

“[she had] no peer among the women of India”

Vera Brittain