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, and simplicity.
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.