Xena Leslie Wright was born April 3, 1896 in San Francisco, California. Her father, William H. Wright, was born 1864 in Connecticut. He was an automobile salesman and a mining entrepreneur. Her mother, Addie L. Wright, was born 1864 in New Hampshire. Her parents married in 1893 and then moved to California to seek their fortune. They had three children. Her older sister Donna was born in 1894 and her younger brother Denza was born in 1898. They lived at 5606 Taft Avenue in Oakland, California.
She attended Oakland Technical High School, where she studied drawing and commercial design. She graduated in 1915. She was a member of the Manzanita Girls Club, which organized activities to raise funds for a charitable baby hospital.
By 1919 she was still living at home, while working as a commercial artist drawing cartoons for a local newspaper. Her style was influenced by Nell Brinkley (1886-1944), whose fashionable drawings were published by the Hearst newspaper syndicate.
1920 was the year American women first won the right to vote. That same year Xena Wright moved to New York City to pursue her career as a newspaper cartoonist. She lived and worked in an art studio at 216 West 72nd Street. In 1924 and 1926 her business was listed in a nationwide graphic arts directory.
By 1928 her pen and ink illustrations regularly appeared in the Street & Smith pulp magazine Love Story. Her illustrations also appeared in other pulp magazines, such as All-Story Love, Five Novels Monthly, and The Golden Book Magazine.
In 1932 she married Donald Maxwell. They moved to 51 Avon Road in Bronxville, NY.
On September 12, 1933 her husband paid to publish the following legal announcement in The New York Times, "My Wife, Xena Wright Maxwell, having left my bed and board, I am not responsible for any debts contracted by her. - Donald Maxwell."
Two weeks after this published estrangement Xena W. Maxwell moved into her own apartment at 280 Madison Avenue on East 40th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They did not have any children.
During the 1930s her story illustrations continued to appear in pulp magazines. Although her early style was based on the fashion tastes of the roaring twenties her drawing style in the 1930s evolved to become strong, bold and contemporary.
Xena Leslie Wright Maxwell died in Queens, NY, at age of forty-three on February 28, 1940.
© David Saunders 2011