Coming from a poverty stricken family, Huang ran away from home when she was ten years old after being sold into marriage by her family. Unable to bear the constant ill-treatment she received, Huang followed the Huangpu River from her home in Songjiang, near Shanghai then boarded a ship bound for the port of Yazhou in Hainan. In Yazhou she learnt spinning and weaving from the local Li people.
Around 1295, Huang returned to Songjiang and began to teach the local women about cotton spinning and weaving technology whilst at the same time manufacturing suits, fine silk fabrics and weaving machinery (such as fluffing machines, crushers and three-spindle treadle powered weaving looms) that greatly increased efficiency. From the weaving aspect, Huang produced mixed cotton fabrics, colored fabrics and fabrics with mixed warp and weft fibers. Her weaving technology made her hometown famous and began its textile manufacturing industry.