Shen Jilan, was born in December 1929, in Pingshun Town, Shanxi Province. She joined the Communist Party in 1953.
In 1951, Shen Jilan worked with Li Shunda to set up a pioneering cooperative where women received equal pay with men. In recognition of her work she was named a "National Model Worker" in 1952.
In 1953, she visited Copenhagen, Denmark, as a delegate to the World Women's Congress. In 1983, she was awarded the "March 8 (International Women's Day) Red-Banner Pacesetter" title. In 1979 and 1989, she was again honored as a "National Model Worker".
Shen was later elected to the Executive Committee of All-China Women's Federation and served on the National People's Congress (NPC) for more than 50 years.
Her half-century on the NPC led to her being dubbed the "world's oldest congresswoman" by her overseas friends.