Alice Hagen was born in Halifax to Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Egan, a successful local businessman, and his wife Margaret. Starting in 1882, she studied at the Mount Saint Vincent Academy and later enrolled in the Victoria School of Art and Design. In the 1890s, Hagen studied with the Nova Scotia artist Bessie Brown and later with Adelaide Alsop Robineau, the American painter and potter, in New York. While she worked in both oils and watercolours, china painting was her first passion. By 1896 she had acquired a sufficient degree of fame to be 1 of 16 artists commissioned to paint a state dinner service for the Governor General.
Hagen is considered to be the founder of the studio pottery movement in Nova Scotia although it was only in 1931, at the age of 60, that she, after a tour of Europe, set up her own pottery studio and kiln in Mahone Bay. She studied with Robert Prescott, a potter located in Lantz, Nova Scotia, and began to work with local clays. She remained at active potter into her 90s.
Besides being an innovative potter, Hagen was also an influential teacher in the province. She was a teacher of china painting at the Victoria School of Art and Design from 1898 to 1901. She also taught pottery classes at her studio and at Lantz and Antigonish for the Nova Scotia Department of Education.