Jean West Penna spent her childhood in the Bendigo district before beginning work as a governess at the age of fifteen. She married in 1930, living much of her married life with her husband Bob in Adelaide. In the early 1940s Penna began writing and had her first short story published in 1945. In all she had over 100 stories and articles published and won a number of literary prizes. Penna's poetry was published in the Victorain Poetry Society Magazine, the Western Mail and The Canberra Times. She was a member of the Society of Women Writers and the Kensington Park Writers' Group.