Coomee Rustom Dantra

1905 - 1997

First Burmese woman to be admitted to an Inn of Court.

Call 1928, Inner Temple

Coomee Rustom Dantra, a barrister’s daughter, was born into a prominent family in Rangoon, Yangon, Myanmar in 1905. She was educated in India and at South Hampstead High School, London.

On 14 January 1924, during her final year at school, she was admitted to The Inner Temple. Her include one from the headmistress of her school who stated that Dantra was,

one of our best pupils and is now Head Girl

and another from Bomanje Cowasjee, a family friend who was an English barrister, a senior member of the Burmese Bar and a member of Lincoln’s Inn. His letter vouched for her suitability to be called to the Bar,

I have known her since her infancy. She has lived with me and near me until she came to England and since then has spent her vacations with me and I have been in close touch with her.

She was perhaps inspired by the example of two Indian women, Mithan Tata and Cornelia Sorajbi, called to the Bar the previous year. After achieving her own ‘first’, she studied law at Girton College, Cambridge before her own Call in January 1928. Within six months, she was instructed in a Privy Council case – the first Asian woman to achieve this – before returning to Burma. She worked for women’s rights, and practised in the Rangoon High Court until 1934. In 1939, she became a translator; after the Second World War she joined the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in 1946 was assistant prosecution counsel at the Tokyo International Military Tribunal.

Coomee Rustom Dantra married Dutch businessman Jacob Cornelis Strooker in 1932. They had two children: Jan Rustom Strooker (b. 1932), who became a mathematics professor; and Shireen Strooker (b. 1935), a celebrated actress, filmmaker, theatre director and writer. She died in Amsterdam in 1997, aged 91.

Caroline Derry