St. Stephen's High School is considered the first Christian Chinese School in Luzon, Philippines.
Its story began in St. Stephen's Church of Manila which was established in 1903 and run by the American Episcopal Mission in the Philippines headed by Bishop Charles Henry Brent.
In line with the church's goal of providing a place of worship and guiding the Manila Chinese residents into becoming a Christian community, the idea of opening a night school for young men was first hatched and brought to fruition in 1905. It operated until 1909.
Running a new school was not without the attendant challenges. Mrs. Studley, wife of the priest-in-charge in church and first principal of the school, braved the administrative demands of ensuring ample financial resources, suitable room provisions and a constant pool of teachers. It was said that "the only steady element seemed to be the girls who came surely and regularly." Their number grew to 150 in 1921. At the first graduation exercises in 1922, eight girls received their diplomas.
As envisioned by the founders, the purpose of the school in educating the Chinese girls was to improve on their knowledge and intelligence; to bring them to church; and to prepare them in establishing Christian homes in the future, with Christian men as partners in marriage. Mrs. Studley was succeeded by Ms. Georgia Brown (1920), Ms. Dorothy Latham (later Mattocks; 1925) and Ms. Constance Bolderston (1932) in holding the reins of the principal's office. All of them studied the Chinese language. Bishop Governeur Frank Mosher continued to recruit new English faculty, many of whom were missionaries, and some of whom, including pioneering kindergarten teacher Ms. Tan Jin Tek, "came out of troubled China."
In a sea of lavender amidst a thriving and growing school populace, St. Stephen's Chinese Girls' School flourished. The elementary department became firmly established. As early as 1925, the English and Chinese high school departments began to be put in place. It was in 1921 that the lavender skirt and white top was adopted as the official school uniform in place of white dress. Lavender happened to be the favorite color of Mrs. Studley. The students gradually became active in church with some girls joining the choir and others helping in the Sunday School. Meanwhile, the school population reached 305 in 1927.