Maude Adams (1872-1953) was a very popular stage actress in the early
twentieth century. She possessed an elfin quality which suited the plays
of James M. Barrie, particularly Peter Pan, a play in which she played
the title role and for which she is most noted.
Maude Ewing Adams Kiskadden was born 1 November 1872 in Salt Lake City.
Her mother, Annie Adams, was a leading lady in the stock company which played
in the local Social Hall. Her father, James Kiskadden, worked for a bank
and also in the Alta mines. At the age of nine months Maude made her first
theatrical appearance. Despite her father`s objections, she soon joined
her mother onstage using the name Maude Adams. She and her mother traveled
throughout the West with a theatrical barnstorming troupe, playing in rough
mining towns as well as in larger cities like San Francisco. It was a difficult
way for a young girl to grow up. In a short piece, "The One I Knew
Least," Adams later wrote about how hard it was for her to form her
own personality when she was given so many set roles. She did return to
Salt Lake for a little while to live with her grandmother and attend the
Salt Lake Collegiate Institute.
Adams debuted in New York at age ten in Esmeralda and then returned
to California. At age sixteen she joined E.H. Sothern's theatre company
in Boston and traveled with them to California and back to New York. She
later switched to Charles H. Hoyt's stock company and then to Charles Frohman's
in 1889. She began to play ingenue rather than children's roles while with
Frohman's company. Following that, she spent five years as the leading lady
in John Drew's company, where her work was praised for its charm, delicacy,
Adams's greatest triumphs came in performing the works of James M. Barrie.
She acted as Lady Babbie in The Little Minister 300 times in New
York and 65 times in Boston. She also played in Quality Street (1902)
and in What Every Woman Knows (1908). She first played Peter Pan,
the role with which she is most closely identified, in 1906.
Adams made her final appearance on the New York stage in A Kiss For Cinderella
in 1916. After thirteen years in retirement, she appeared as Portia in Merchant
of Venice in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1931 and as Maria in Twelfth Night
in 1934 in Maine. From 1937 to 1943 she headed the drama department at Stephens
College in Missouri. She died 17 July 1953 in Tannersville, New York.
See: Phyllis Robbins, Maude Adams: An Intimate Portrait (1956) and
The Young Maude Adams (1959).
Ann W. Engar