Actress and Broadway star, Maude Adams,
was born on this day in 1872. During her run as Broadway’s Peter Pan; or, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,
Maude was the highest paid performer in the country and raked in an annual
income of one million dollars.
Maude Adams photographed by an unnamed photographer in 1900 (x).
Maude Ewing Adams Kiskadden was
born on November 11, 1872 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was raised in a
hardworking Mormon family; her father worked two jobs for a bank and
for a local mine before passing away when Maude was a child. Her very first
stage appearance happened when she was only 2 months old, starring in The Lost Baby at Brigham Young Theatre. Her mother Annie
Kiskadden had a penchant for the theater and would star in several productions
with her infant daughter on her hip as well. This paved the way for Maude’s
theater career to start in earnest when she joined a traveling theater troupe
as a small child.
Her life became consumed by
performing and she would work steadily as an actress for many years. Maude’s
big break came, however, when her path crossed with that of English writer J.M.
Barrie. Barrie had been being pressured to make his novel The Little Minister
into a play, but he had resisted for fear that no actress could accurately
capture the role of Lady Babbie. After attending a performance of Rosemary in
which Maude starred, Barrie decided immediately that she was the perfect choice
for Lady Babbie. The two’s working relationship would culminate in Maude receiving
the role of a lifetime – Peter Pan in the very first Broadway adaptation of the
iconic novel in 1905.
Maude Adams: Fashion icon and America’s first Peter Pan (x).
The public’s reception of Maude
was as eternally-virginal and virtuous, but the truth of the matter was that
Maude avoided relationships with men not because she was childlike, but because
she was a lesbian. She had two serious relationships throughout her lifetime. Her
first partner was a woman named Lillie Florence, whom she was with from the
1890s to the early 1900s. She met a woman named Louise Boynton in 1905 and the
two stayed together until Louise’s death in 1951. In her later years, Maude became
known as a renowned drama teacher and served as the head of the drama
department at Stephens College. She would pass away at the age of 80 on July
17, 1953. She is buried next to Louise in New York.