Jane E. Walsh grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and attended Classical High School. Her mother was director of standards and planning for the Department of Employment Security in Rhode Island, and her father worked in the real estate business. She attended Pembroke College in an accelerated program available during World War II, beginning in January 1944 and graduating June 1947. Besides majoring in history, Walsh also worked for the war effort and was involved in the Newman Club during her time at Pembroke.
After her graduation, Walsh worked in the Office of the Attorney General of the United States. After completing a training course to become a librarian, she worked in the Providence Public Library and then at the Newport Naval War College as a reference librarian. In 1952, she married her husband, with whom she had four sons. After having children, Walsh was heavily involved with volunteer work. She worked in several organizations, including the PTA, Cub Scouts, and the Women’s Intergroup Conference, which worked for racial harmony and to pass a fair housing law in Rhode Island. Walsh was president of several additional volunteer organizations, including the Bannister House, a nonprofit nursing home, the Scituate Art Festival, and the Trustees of the North Scituate Public Library.
Walsh remained active within the Pembroke community throughout her career, and was both president of the Pembroke Alumnae Association and chairman of the Pembroke Seminars. At the time of her 1988 interview, she held a position as chairman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee.