Born in 1911 in Paris, Bourgeois entered the Sorbonne to study mathematics in 1932, but one year later, turned to art. She enrolled in several art schools, including the Ecole des Arts-Beaux, and she served as an apprentice in artist's studios in Montparnasse and Montmartre. In 1938, she emigrated to New York where she attended the Art Students League.
Her first solo exhibition took place at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York in 1945 and her sculpture was first shown four years later at the Peridot Gallery in New York. The Museum of Modern Art in New York organized a retrospective of Bourgeios' work in 1982, which traveled to various American venues and her first European retrospective was put together in 1989 and traveled extensively abroad.