Alice Yick

Newspaper article with photo of Alice Yick working on machinery to the left.
Alice Yick joined the Charlestown Navy Yard workforce during the height of its production.

"Boston Chinese Girl Trains Under NYA for War Job," Boston Globe, September 1942.

Quick Facts
Homefront worker at Charlestown Navy Yard, Advocate, Photographer
Place of Birth:
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Date of Birth:
March 2, 1923
Place of Death:
Boston Massachusetts
Date of Death:
November 2, 2021

On March 9, 1923, the headline on the first page of the Portsmouth Herald declared: "First Chinese Baby Is Born In This City."1 This headline marked the birth of Alice Yick, the first Chinese American woman to work at the Charlestown Navy Yard and an advocate for military veterans.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Alice Yick spent her early years in New Hampshire. As the Yick family continued to grow, they eventually moved to Tyler Street in Boston's Chinatown.2 Henry Yick, Alice's father, began working in a local restaurant while the children attended public school and the Kwong Kow Chinese School in the late afternoon.3 In 1942 at the age of 19, Yick became the first Chinese American girl to enroll in the National Youth Administration's mechanical training program.4

Created by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935, the National Youth Administration (NYA) provided training and jobs for unemployed students and young people. Engaged in multiple sectors, many of these individuals were trained in national defense, welding, and aviation mechanics. Though the program shut down before World War II ended, the NYA trained and employed over 2 million young Americans.5 In this program, Alice Yick acquired crucial skills to help with wartime production, including the ability to use lathes, grinders, planers, and other machines.

On December 7, 1942, Alice Yick applied the Boston Naval Shipyard (also known as Charlestown Navy Yard). She was soon hired, becoming the first Chinese American civilian woman worker at Boston's Navy Yard.6 Originally placed in a machine shop, Yick soon ran into a problem that many women have - the machines with their standardized proportions did not accommodate her small stature. She recounted in her oral history in 1994 that:

I was too short for the machine work so they put on another job and I was too cold so I worked there for a very short time and I left. After that I went to Gillette and there was a war program also and I was working for the government in the company. And so I operated a lathe.7

Alice Yick was twice married, first to Frank Jong and later Adam Chin. She had three children in total. Alice Chin spent most of the next decades living in various locations in Boston's Chinatown. As her children grew up and started to attend public and Chinese school, Chin worked at various positions and expanded her hobby of photography into a side business.8 Using her skills in photography and developing film, Chin volunteered at the Veteran's Administration, helping veterans express themselves through the lens:

When I went to the V.A. Center, I saw all ages, even some men from World War II who were still there. I had a group of guys that was interested in photography. I volunteered, gee, I think about either five or six years. And out of the five or six years, from the day treatment center, these soldiers are ex-service men that had mental problems. Some of them are under control by medication. But some of them seem to, they want to do something, and they seem to get involved, and if they like it, they will finish up.9

Alice (Yick) Chin passed away on November 2, 2021, at 98 years old.10


  1. "First Chinese Baby Is Born In This City," The Portsmouth Herald, March 9, 1923.
  2. Alice Yick eventually had five siblings, two brothers and three sisters. See "Alice Chin Oral History,"  April 19, 1994, Chinese American Women in New England, Schlesinger Library, pg 1-2.
  3. The Kwong Kow School continues to serve Boston's Chinatown today. Please visit their website for more information: Academic & Cultural Enrichment | Kwong Kow Chinese School | Boston (
  4. "Boston Chinese Girl Trains Under NYA for War Job," Boston Globe, September 1942.
  5. Federal Security Agency and War Manpower Commission, Final Report of the National Youth Administration, Fiscal Years 1936-1943, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1944 
  6. "Yick, Alice," Official Military Personnel File of Alfred Brunson Wallace, National Personnel Records Center, National Archives and Records Administration, St. Louis, MO.
  7. "Alice Chin Oral History,"  April 19, 1994, Chinese American Women in New England, Schlesinger Library, pg 4.
  8. "Alice Chin Oral History,"  April 19, 1994, Chinese American Women in New England, Schlesinger Library, pg 9.
  9. "Alice Chin Oral History,"  April 19, 1994, Chinese American Women in New England, Schlesinger Library, pg 14.
  10. "Chin, Alice Lee," Boston Globe,  November 21, 2021.

Boston National Historical Park

Last updated: January 23, 2024