Coomee Rustom Dantra

First Burmese woman barrister

Admitted 1924, Called 1928

Coomee Rustom Dantra was the first Burmese woman to gain entry to an Inn of Court. Born on 23 September 1905 to a wealthy family in Rangoon. Dantra was the eldest daughter of Rustom Sorab Dantra and Shireen Spencer. Her father had been a member of the Middle Temple since 25 January 1892 and was called to the Bar on 17 June 1896. She was initially educated at Queen’s Hill High School Darjeeling. In 1919, she came to England and joined South Hampstead High School from where on 5 January 1924 she joined The Inner Temple. 

Her references include one from the headmistress of her school in South Hampstead 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

On the strength of these documents The Inner Temple admitted Dantra on 14 January 1924, making her the first Burmese woman at the Inns of Court. 

Aside from her studies at The Inner Temple, Dantra also achieved a BA degree in law at Newnham College Cambridge in 1928. She was called to the Bar on 26 January 1928 and practised law as a barrister from 1928 to 1934. In 1932, she married a Dutchman, Jacob Cornelis Strooker, and afterwards became a translator charged with translating English from French, German and Dutch for publishing. She also translated for the International Military Tribunal in Tokyo in 1946.