Growing up on the mean streets of South Side, Chicago, Shirley learned how to fight from her older brothers. She eventually got a job as Congressman Pug McCuskey's secretary. It was as McKuskey's secretary that she eventually met World War II hero and CIA field officer Nick Fury. She and Fury quickly started an affair, sleeping with each other multiple times a year. McKuskey asked Shirley to marry him, to which she agreed, rationalizing that McKuskey could give her the comfortable lifestyle that she always wanted and Fury could not. She came to despise McKuskey as he would routinely cheat on her with prostitutes, clearly displaying that he did not care about her.

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