To give girls in Singapore the rare chance of a formal education, an overseas Chinese named Xiong Shangfu set up Nam Wah Girls' School in Coleman Street.
Over the next 100 years, Nan Hwa Girls' School moved to various premises, separated the primary and secondary sections, and also became co-ed.
This year, Nan Hua Primary School and Nan Hua High School mark their centenary and celebrate the legacy of the school founded in June 1917, at a time when education for women was not thought important.
As part of the 100th anniversary celebrations, a reunion for both schools was held last Friday at the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, the schools' first site in Clementi. The primary school is now in Jalan Lempeng and the secondary school at a new campus in Clementi Avenue 1.
Carnival and exhibition booths were set up by the schools, parent support groups and alumni associations to mark Friday's joint centennial celebration, one of several events this year.
Back then, the school was simple. There were not many facilities. The students today are very fortunate.
RETIREE CHEONG SOOI PENG, on what Nan Hua was like when she was a student at the high school from 1966 to 1969.
More than 1,400 students from both schools also put on performances.
Nan Hua High School principal Tan Jong Lek said it was important for students to celebrate the school's rich heritage and the values passed down by the pioneers.
The primary school principal Ong Hui Khim added: "This centenary is an opportunity to look back on the vision and hard work of previous generations who have made a difference to the Nan Hua story."
Retiree Cheong Sooi Peng, 64, who spent four years at the high school from 1966 to 1969, said she met schoolmates and reminisced about their school days.
She said: "Back then, the school was simple. There were not many facilities. The students today are very fortunate."
Parliamentary Secretary for Education Low Yen Ling said at the event that the success achieved by Nan Hua today is possible because of the sacrifices as well as the contributions of generations of school leaders, staff, parents, alumni and students.