Jean Shirley Verhagen (later shortened to Hagen) was born in Chicago, Illinois on August 3, 1923. Her father was a Dutch immigrant. Hagen and her family moved to Elkhart, Indiana when she was twelve; she subsequently graduated from Elkhart High School. Afterwards, she graduated from Northwestern University, where she studied drama and was a roommate of fellow actress Patricia Neal. Sadly, by the 1960s, Ms. Hagen's health had declined and she spent many years under medical care. She died of esophageal cancer on August 29, 1977 at the age of 54.