Tan Sri Datin Sri Cempaka Kontik Kamariah was born in Kampung Seputih, Kuala Lumpur, on 5 August 1911. She was married to the late Encik Bahadun Haji Hassan, a former Malaysian Ambassador to South Korea, who passed away on 28 July 1980. She was the daughter of the late Ahmad Panglima Garang Ishak, a former Kuala Lumpur penghulu. She studied in Seputih Malay School, Kuala Lumpur between 1919 and 1923 up to standard five. As for the secondary education, she went to Methodist Girls' School, Kuala Lumpur where she passed the Senior Cambridge Examinations in 1928. She was the first Malay woman who passed the examination. She later took up a Teacher's Training Course at the English Normal Teachers' Training Centre and she was also the first Malay woman to undertake the course as an English Teacher trainee at the Methodist Girls' School, Kuala Lumpur.
In 1932, she became the Kampung Baru Female School Inspector and was appointed to be the first Selangor Malay schools female supervisor from 1945 to 1948. As the wife of an ambassador, she often accompanied her husband abroad, from 1957 to 1968. She was also involved in political activities and joined forces against the colonialists. In addition, she was active in a variety of cooperative organizations and UMNO. In 1932, she was engaged in the Selangor Government Servants Co-op Thrift and Loan Society, Kuala Lumpur and became the committee member until 1940. Other organisations which she took part in include the Midland Co-op Union, Co-op Union of Malaya, and was a member of the Co-op Insurance of Malaya and Co-operative College Board .
Between 1955 and 1957, she was the Chairperson of the Selangor Co-op Thrift and Loan Society and the President of the Co-operative Union of Malaya, the first lady to hold the position. She was appointed to be the Chairperson of the Selangor Malay Officers Housing Cooperative from 1954 to 1964 and from 1975 to early 1980's. In 1954, she established the Koperasi Bangunan Rumah-rumah Pegawai-pegawai Melayu Selangor (Selangor Malay Officers Housing Cooperative) and became its Yang Dipertua until 1964. She was again made the Yang Dipertua in 1975. The company managed to acquire a piece of land on which 21 units of houses were built. The residential area, Taman Kamariah, located in Gombak, Kuala Lumpur was named after her.
She was the Girl Guides Captain for Kampung Baru School, Kuala Lumpur in 1939. In 1977, she was appointed a member of the National Film Censorship Board of Appeal and in 1979 a committee member of Gombak District Council. After the death of her husband, she ran a travel and tour company.
In 1953, she was awarded a British Empire Medal (B.E.M) by the British Government. The Selangor state government awarded her with Pingat Jasa Kebaktian (P.J.K) in 1964 and Justice of Peace (J.P) in 1969. On 8 March 1979, she became the first woman appointed by the Sultan of Selangor as Orang Kaya Maha Bijaya Gombak known as Orang Besar Daerah Gombak which carries the title Datin Sri Cempaka. In 1990, she was awarded a Tan Sri Fatimah Avon Outstanding Women Award. She was also awarded Pingat Kenangan Bakti Guru Melayu Selangor by the Malaysian History Association of Selangor and Tokoh Warga Tua Wanita by the Selangor State Government in 1992. His Majesty the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong awarded her Bintang Panglima Setia Mahkota (P.S.M) which carries the title Tan Sri, and later she was awarded Darjah Kebesaran Dato' Sultan Sallahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (D.S.S.A), which carries the title Datin Paduka.
A Series of Narration of Women Personages in the Malaysian History
26 May 1984
National Archives of Malaysia