Former Principal 100

IlmaMrs Ilma Woodward (now Mrs Ilma Stokes) was Principal of Chatswood High in the
1970s for six years. She was the school’s third Principal and its first female Principal and also the first female Principal of a co-ed high school in NAW. Ilma turned 100 on the 23rd June, 2019.


At 100 years young Ilma is still sprightly, quick-witted and keen for a chat about anything and everything, from horse racing to history.

Forty years after she retired from teaching and her role as the head of Chatswood High School, Mrs Woodward remains passionate about the importance of teaching.

‘When people think about schools, they usually think about the students,’ she says.

‘But the teachers are very important too. I had a reputation for looking after the teachers and for supporting them to try new things in the classroom.’

While these days women principals are a common occurrence, back when Mrs Woodward was appointed to the job it was much less common.

‘I didn’t think too much about it at the time – you just got on with the job,’ she says.

Mrs Woodward’s success began much earlier when she was granted a scholarship to attend university.

She studied hard and received the university medal.

Soon after she got her first teaching job at Wentworth in the state’s far southwest.

‘When I finished my degree, they said, “Where would you like to teach,” and I said, “As far away from the city as I can get,”’ and that’s where they sent me,’ she says.

She went on to teach in Yass, Nowra, Sutherland, Hornsby, and Maitland, before being promoted to principal of Picton High and eventually Chatswood High.

It was while Ilma was working at Sutherland High that she met Lionel Woodward, a lecturer in French at Sydney University.

After Lionel died, some years later, Ilma married George Stokes, part of the well-known Stokes family of Mullumbimby.

Sources: CHA Newsletter, personal recollections, Paul Bibby – EchoNet Daily


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