Adele Williams was born in Richmond, Virginia, the daughter of John H. Williams. Graduating high school at the age of 15, she went to New York in 1886 to study at the Woman's Art School of Cooper Union and the Art Students' League. She also studied at the Académie Julian in Paris, where she won the Prix Concours medal.
Williams worked in oil, watercolor, pastel, and mezzotint, painting landscapes, still lifes, and harbor and street scenes in an Impressionist style. She exhibited work at the Paris Salon during her stay in France, and after her return to the United States she showed at the American Watercolor Society, the Art Club of Philadelphia, and elsewhere. A number of her portraits are cataloged by the Catalogue of American Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, including a 1902 self-portrait and a 1903 portrait of Ellen Axson Wilson, the first wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Her portrait of judge John W. Riely hangs in the Virginia Supreme Court, and her portrait of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury is owned by the University of Virginia.
- Kelly, James C., et al. The Virginia Landscape: A Cultural History. HOwell Press, 2000.
- Willard, Frances E., and Mary A. Livermore, eds. A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-Seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in All Walks of Life. Moulton, 1893.
- Bayliss, Mary Lynn. The Dooleys of Richmond: An Irish Immigrant Family in the Old and New South. By Mary Lynn Bayliss
- "Adele Williams". National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
- Virginia State Library Publications, no. 43, p. 102.
- Patton, John Shelton, et. al., eds. Jefferson's University: Glimpses of the Past and Present of the University, p. 39.