Maud Robison, the daughter of a bank manager, was born on 24th December 1865 at Mudgee, New South Wales, the third of ten children of William Smoult Robison, a bank manager. The family moved to New Zealand when Maud was a child.
Sally Alexander described her as "tall and striking, with a handsome face, full red lips, dark eyes, and brown hair". She met her husband, William Pember Reeves (1857–1932), a journalist and politician eight years her senior, when she was nineteen. They married at Christchurch on 10th February 1885.
Maud's first child, William, lived only a few hours. Her second child, Amber Reeves, was born in 1887. After the birth of her second daughter, Beryl, in 1889, Maud took the first part of a BA in French, mathematics, and English at Canterbury College. Maud's studies were abandoned so that she could concentrate on the struggle for women's suffrage. In September 1893 New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote, and Maud chaired the first public meeting of enfranchised women in Christchurch soon afterwards.
In March 1896 William Reeves was appointed New Zealand agent-general in London. On their arrival in England they joined the Fabian Society and became friends with Hubert Bland, Edith Nesbit, Sidney Webb, Beatrice Webb, Graham Wallas, George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells. Maud also became active in the women's suffrage movement and in 1906 she was appointed to the executive of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. In 1908 she helped establish the Fabian Women's Group.
In 1909 Pember Reeves, Ethel Bentham and the Fabian Women's Group began a four year study of the daily lives of working-class families in Lambeth. Maud's biographer, Sally Alexander, has argued: "The Lambeth mothers' project, initiated by Maud, was prompted by the recognition that more infants died in the London slums than in Kensington or Hampstead... Forty-two families were selected from a lying-in hospital in Lambeth, London, to have weekly visits, medical examinations from Dr Ethel Bentham every two weeks, and 5s. to be paid to the mother for extra nourishment for three months before the birth of the baby and for one year afterwards. The money came from private donations, and the mothers wrote down their weekly expenditure. Eight families withdrew because the husbands objected to this weekly scrutiny. Eight other mothers who could not read or write dictated their sums to their husbands or children."
The report, written by Pember Reeves, was published as a Fabian pamphlet, Family Life on a Pound a Week in 1912. The material later appeared as a book Round About a Pound a Week. In the report, Pember Reeves argued for a series of government reforms including child benefit, free health clinics and the provision of school meals. She wrote: "If people living on £1 a week had lively imaginations, their lives, and perhaps the face of England, would be different."
During the First World War, Pember Reeves worked as Director of the Education and Propaganda Department of the Ministry of Food. Her son Fabian was killed while serving in the trenches in June, 1917. She was devastated by this news and she withdrew from public life.
Maud Pember Reeves died in a nursing home at 27 Powis Gardens, Golders Green, on 13th September 1953.