Maxwell grew up in Troy, New York and lived with family in England and Atlanta before studying nursing at the Georgia Baptist Hospital. She raised a family in Ridgefield, Connecticut and enjoyed sewing, quilting and painting. In the mid-1980s she was diagnosed with lupus.
In 1993 Maxwell moved back to Birmingham to receive care from UAB Hospital specialist Graciela Alarcón. She participated in numerous studies and was an active member of the Birmingham Lupus Support Group. She moved to Oshkosh in 2008 to be closer to her family and spent her last months in hospice care there.
Maxwell died in April 2010 and was survived by two daughters and three grandchildren.
- "Barbara Downs Maxwell" obituary (May 9, 2010) Oshkosh Northwestern