Maggie Childs studies premodern Japanese narrative, gender relations, and religious issues. She received her B.A. in history from Gettysburg College (1972) and then, taught English in Tokyo for one year. She also worked as a bilingual secretary in businesses in New York City, before earning her M.A. in Japanese from Columbia University in 1978. After two years of dissertation research at Kyoto University, she earned her Ph.D. in Japanese from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983. Her first academic position was at Southern Illinois University (1983-87) after which she came to the University of Kansas. There, she served as chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures from 1990-1996. She has also been a visiting professor at Columbia University (spring 1995) and the University of Michigan (1996-98). Childs served as director of the KU Summer Study Program in Hiratsuka, Japan, between 1991 and 2006.
She has published a book, Rethinking Sorrow: Revelatory Tales in Late Medieval Japan, which is an anthology of stories in which monks and nuns explain to each other why they took religious vows. Professor Childs also authored the lead article in the Journal of Asian Studies (1999, 58:4, 1059-1079), "The Value of Vulnerability: Sexual Coercion and the Nature of Love in Japanese Court Literature," and other articles on autobiographical and religious literature in premodern Japan.
When not working, she may often be found horseback riding or engaged in political activism.