Hyman was born on December 6, 1888 in Des Moines, Iowa, the third of four children and the only daughter. Her parents were Jewish immigrants; her father, Joseph Hyman, came to the United States from Konin, Poland, at age fourteen, and her mother, Sabina Neumann, was born in Stettin, Germany. Hyman's childhood and youth were spent in Fort Dodge, Iowa, where her father kept an unsuccessful clothing store. Her home life was strict and without affection. Her father, twenty years older than her mother, worried about his declining fortunes and ignored his children, although he did have scholarly inclinations, keeping volumes of Dickens and Shakespeare, which Hyman read. In her brief autobiography, Hyman remembered her mother as being "thoroughly infiltrated with the European worship of the male sex. " Her mother required her to do "endless housework" caring for her brothers, whom Hyman believed were "brought up in idleness and irresponsibility. "