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In 1886, young visionary Edith Hooke, aged 20, opened Wenona’s precursor, Woodstock, in a cottage on West Street, North Sydney. An alternative to ‘dame schools’, which simply prepared girls for marriage, Woodstock offered a full complement of subjects: languages, science and sport. Its students were imbued with the importance of service others, in line with the School’s motto, Ut Prosim, that I may serve.
Taking in day girls and boarders, Woodstock flourished, and outgrew a number of its premises. In 1913, Miss Hooke reopened Woodstock as Wenona, a primary school for day girls. In 1920, former Head Girl Miss Edith Ralston purchased the School, and a year later, relocated it to 176 Walker Street – the site it sits on today. Over the next 43 years as Headmistress, she oversaw expansion and set the foundation for what we know as Wenona.
For more than 130 years, Wenona has been led by visionary female leaders who recognised the value of women’s education. Their legacy, like that of Miss Barbara Jackson who helmed the School for almost three decades, continues to this day. Since current Principal Dr Briony Scott, an Old Girl under Miss Jackson, arrived in 2011, she has carried out her vision to educate ‘Renaissance women’.
Wenona may not be the same little school on West Street, but what remains from Miss Hooke’s Woodstock is a strength in relationships, a culture of service and a vision to empower women to revel in the challenges ahead of them now and into the future.