Jennie Lee Taylor was born on August 30th 1919, a year after the First World War. Her father and mother came from China with her brother, Jimmy, to Canada and down to New York in 1918. Her parents had a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York on Fulton Street. The family later moved to California due to her father’s health.
In California, her father started a laundry business in Los Angeles. During the 1930s, Jennie and her brother Jimmy attended California St. School, Central Jr. High and graduated from Belmont High. Jennie’s family was not greatly affected by the Depression due to the help of the Chinese American community.
When the Japanese invaded Shanghai in 1937, Jennie’s uncle was killed. At the age of twenty-three, she became involved in protests against the Japanese invasion and US exporting scrap iron to Japan in Long Beach. Jennie collected money and sent it to the Chamber of Congress to send it to the refugees during the War against Japan. In order to ensure their safety, Jennie and other Chinese Americans wore buttons that said, “I am Chinese�? to help avoid discrimination.
Jennie was twenty-two when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Many women went into welding school and worked in the defense industry. Jennie attended the Warren School of Aeronautics and passed the test at Douglass Aircraft Company as a top scorer, however they didn’t hire her. Six months later, Douglass needed aluminum welders and Jennie applied for the second time. Jennie was hired and was certified as “the first Oriental Woman Welder.�?