She was married with Peter Joseph Kovacs in Ohio. They moved to New York but years later Sylvia and Peter divorced amidst mutual accusations of adultery and mental cruelty. After ther divorce, Sylvia changed living places in a number of low-rent apartments, sometimes with male companions.
Her son Walter was conceived by an unknown father. When Walter asked about him, she claimed that his name was "Charlie" but she didn't know his surname. She claimed that while she didn't like President Harry S. Truman, "Charlie" was very fond of him and he abandoned her because of political arguments two months prior to Walter's birth. Everyone told sylvia to have an abortion but she gave birth to Walter in 1940. Sylvia became a prostitute in order to survive. Shortly later, she was arrested on charges of portitution.
While she had sex with a client, little Walter thought he was hurting her and approached. The client was annoyed and left, paying her 5 bucks. Sylvia shouted to Walter and hit him for costing her the money.
Sylvia became a point of derision against young Walter. This was the reason that he partially blinded Richie, an older bully, by sticking the kid's lit cigarette in his eye and brutally biting his friend.
After that event, Walter's house was investigated, and as it was apparent that Walter was abused, he was put into the Charlton Home while Sylvia continued being a prostitute in the Bronx; apparently Sylvia made no move to communicate with Walter.
Later her pimp, George Paterson, murdered her by forcing her to ingest some 'Drano' cleaning fluid, and tossed her body in a back alleyway. When Walter learned about it, he commented "Good". (Rorschach is later implied to have killed George Paterson because of this.)