BORN
1916

DIED
1987 

INDUCTED
2021 

CATEGORY
Sports

THE HONOURED INDUCTEES TO THE SINGAPORE WOMEN’S HALL OF FAME

MAE NOELINE OEHLERS

Outstanding sportswoman and educator

In the 1930s, one name regularly appeared in the headlines to news reports about ladies hockey matches – ‘Miss N Oehlers’ hat-trick’, ‘Miss Oehlers in goal scoring form’, ‘Miss N Oehlers shines’.

Noeline Oehlers was just 14 when, along with other members of the Girls Sports Club or GSC, she started playing hockey. The club was formed in 1929 by a group of young Eurasian women – among them three of Noeline’s older sisters – when they failed to get the Singapore Recreation Club to change its male-members-only policy. Keen to play competitive sports, they started their own club and set about organising tennis and netball matches. 

In 1930 they began to learn a new game – hockey. Just a few months later, the GSC hockey team was so good at the game that they were able to hold to a draw a much more experienced European team in the inaugural annual ladies hockey match for the Poppy Day Fund.

 The GSC team kept upping their game and soon they were one of the top ladies hockey teams in Singapore. There were many good players on the team, but the star and top goal scorer was Noeline. 

She was frequently mentioned in news reports about the hockey matches during the 1930s: Miss N Oehlers played a dashing game…and scored the four goals. Miss N Oehlers was again the opportunist when…she snapped up a pass…and went through on her own. Miss N Oehlers was the outstanding player, scoring six of the 10 goals. Miss Noeline Oehlers…is a very resourceful player possessing a powerful hit, and is always on the alert for stray passes.

Noeline’s contribution to the development of women’s hockey in Singapore was recognised in 1981 when the Singapore Hockey Association presented her with a special award.

Having made her mark on the amateur sports field as a young woman, Noeline went on to play a pioneering role in education. In 1958, after 12 years of being a teacher at Raffles Girls School (RGS) and serving under several expatriate principals, she became the first Singaporean principal of Singapore’s premier girls’ school. 

But before she took on this position, she was the first principal of Cedar Girls Secondary School. While she was delighted and proud to be made principal of RGS, where she had been both a student and a teacher, it was her year at Cedar that in some ways she found more fulfilling. 

‘I loved that school,” she said in an interview with The Straits Times in 1984. When Cedar Girls first opened, there was no fence around its premises in Sennett Estate. There was a dairy farm nearby and the cows often wandered in to graze on the school’s lawns.  

Apart from having to keep away the cows, Noeline had the challenge of building the character and identity of the new school. “The main thing I saw to,” she told The Straits Times, “was the discipline of the school. You cannot run a school without discipline.”

She also drove home to the Cedar staff and students the values she considered critical in life: Honesty, charity, perseverance, filial piety, courtesy, and civic responsibility.  In her year at Cedar, Noeline was able to put in place the foundations of the school’s character. She also decided on the distinctive grey and blue colours of the school uniform. 

When she moved back to RGS, the job of being principal was quite different. The school was well established with a strong character, and the students were among the brightest in Singapore. The challenges were more of an administrative nature – managing the split of the school into secondary and primary divisions, and the move of her secondary division to new premises. 

Then as the secondary school grew, it had to be split into morning and afternoon sessions – which meant a shortage of staff. The answer for RGS, which had always only had female teachers, was to start hiring male teachers. Noeline, who was an excellent administrator, managed all these changes well. 

In 1961, Noeline retired as RGS principal and took a much-needed break from work. But after a few years, she got bored and resumed her career as an educationist. She took on a teaching post at Swiss Cottage Secondary School, where for the first time she taught co-ed classes. Noeline was at Swiss Cottage for 13 years. When she retired from that job, she continued to teach, first as a part-time lecturer at the RELC and then as a private tutor. Noeline died in 1987.

MAE NOELINE OEHLERS

Outstanding sportswoman and educator

BORN 1916    DIED 1987
INDUCTED 2021    CATEGORY Sports

In the 1930s, one name regularly appeared in the headlines to news reports about ladies hockey matches – ‘Miss N Oehlers’ hat-trick’, ‘Miss Oehlers in goal scoring form’, ‘Miss N Oehlers shines’.

Noeline Oehlers was just 14 when, along with other members of the Girls Sports Club or GSC, she started playing hockey. The club was formed in 1929 by a group of young Eurasian women – among them three of Noeline’s older sisters – when they failed to get the Singapore Recreation Club to change its male-members-only policy. Keen to play competitive sports, they started their own club and set about organising tennis and netball matches. 

In 1930 they began to learn a new game – hockey. Just a few months later, the GSC hockey team was so good at the game that they were able to hold to a draw a much more experienced European team in the inaugural annual ladies hockey match for the Poppy Day Fund.

 The GSC team kept upping their game and soon they were one of the top ladies hockey teams in Singapore. There were many good players on the team, but the star and top goal scorer was Noeline. 

She was frequently mentioned in news reports about the hockey matches during the 1930s: Miss N Oehlers played a dashing game…and scored the four goals. Miss N Oehlers was again the opportunist when…she snapped up a pass…and went through on her own. Miss N Oehlers was the outstanding player, scoring six of the 10 goals. Miss Noeline Oehlers…is a very resourceful player possessing a powerful hit, and is always on the alert for stray passes.

Noeline’s contribution to the development of women’s hockey in Singapore was recognised in 1981 when the Singapore Hockey Association presented her with a special award.

Having made her mark on the amateur sports field as a young woman, Noeline went on to play a pioneering role in education. In 1958, after 12 years of being a teacher at Raffles Girls School (RGS) and serving under several expatriate principals, she became the first Singaporean principal of Singapore’s premier girls’ school. 

But before she took on this position, she was the first principal of Cedar Girls Secondary School. While she was delighted and proud to be made principal of RGS, where she had been both a student and a teacher, it was her year at Cedar that in some ways she found more fulfilling. 

‘I loved that school,” she said in an interview with The Straits Times in 1984. When Cedar Girls first opened, there was no fence around its premises in Sennett Estate. There was a dairy farm nearby and the cows often wandered in to graze on the school’s lawns.  

Apart from having to keep away the cows, Noeline had the challenge of building the character and identity of the new school. “The main thing I saw to,” she told The Straits Times, “was the discipline of the school. You cannot run a school without discipline.”

She also drove home to the Cedar staff and students the values she considered critical in life: Honesty, charity, perseverance, filial piety, courtesy, and civic responsibility.  In her year at Cedar, Noeline was able to put in place the foundations of the school’s character. She also decided on the distinctive grey and blue colours of the school uniform. 

When she moved back to RGS, the job of being principal was quite different. The school was well established with a strong character, and the students were among the brightest in Singapore. The challenges were more of an administrative nature – managing the split of the school into secondary and primary divisions, and the move of her secondary division to new premises. 

Then as the secondary school grew, it had to be split into morning and afternoon sessions – which meant a shortage of staff. The answer for RGS, which had always only had female teachers, was to start hiring male teachers. Noeline, who was an excellent administrator, managed all these changes well. 

In 1961, Noeline retired as RGS principal and took a much-needed break from work. But after a few years, she got bored and resumed her career as an educationist. She took on a teaching post at Swiss Cottage Secondary School, where for the first time she taught co-ed classes. Noeline was at Swiss Cottage for 13 years. When she retired from that job, she continued to teach, first as a part-time lecturer at the RELC and then as a private tutor. Noeline died in 1987.

“In some instances, the poorer the students were in financial and intellectual ability, the more appreciative they were of the work you did for them.”

INTERVIEW WITH THE STRAITS TIMES, 15 MAY 1984

Photo Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Photo Courtesy of Raffles Girls School