Born in 1901 into a middle-class family, Maud Dowley grew up in South Ohio, Nova Scotia, then later in the neighbouring town of Yarmouth. Suffering from what was likely juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, she lived with her parents until their deaths in the mid-1930s. Her mother always encouraged her interest in art, even when it became more than a hobby: together, they painted Christmas cards, which they sold door to door. In January 1938, Dowley married Everett Lewis, a fish peddler from Marshalltown, with whom she would live in relative poverty for the rest of her life. Early on in their marriage, Maud resumed painting cards for her husband to sell, but the post-war tourist boom created an opportunity to sell paintings out of their home, which was strategically located along a main highway. Supported by her husband, Lewis ceased producing cards to focus on paintings and other custom orders. In the 1960s, she was discovered by the media, which led to national recognition. Maud Lewis died in 1970. Today, a restored version of her highly decorated house can be viewed at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.