Lily Adams was born in Toronto in 1865. She studied at the University of Toronto, under Professor A.R. Coleman; the Toronto School of Art, under J.W. Beatty; Columbia University, New York, under Arthur Dow; the New York Art League, under John Carlsen; and St. John's Wood Art School in London, England. She also studied under McGillivary Knowles and L.R. O'Brien, and attended the Ontario College of Art. In later years, she studied at Woodstock in the Catskills Mountains, under Birge Harrison.
Lily Adams painted mainly landscapes, flowers and still lifes, in pastels, watercolours and oils. Her work was exhibited extensively at the Canadian National Exhibition (1907-1932); through the Ontario Society of Artists (1903-1925); and at the Royal Canadian Academy (approximately 1928-1931). During the 1930s, she also organized annual exhibitions of her paintings at her studio on Irwin Street.
Lily Adams died in Toronto in 1945. Her work is now represented in the Art Gallery of Ontario.