Friday, August 22, 2008

Evelyn Nesbit

Just read a really good book about Evelyn Nesbit, the original Gibson Girl and teenage sex goddess of the late 1800's. American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the It Girl, and the Crime of the Century by Paula Uruburu was a fascinating read. I remembered her from E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime which is mostly set in New York City from about 1900 until the United States entry into World War I in 1917. It explored the Gilded Age the late 19th century (1877-1890).

According to Wiki:
As a Florodora chorus girl on Broadway, Nesbit caught the eye of acclaimed architect – and notorious womanizer – Stanford White, then 47 to her 16. Stanford and Evelyn were reportedly introduced to one another by Florodora girl, Broadway star, and media personality Edna Goodrich.
The fact that he was married, and made a hobby of "befriending" teenage girls, was overlooked by Nesbit's mother, who encouraged White's patronage. White owned an apartment in which he had installed numerous strategically placed mirrors, as well as a soon-to-be infamous red velvet swing; reportedly he derived sexual pleasure by pushing young women in the swing, naked or nearly so, as Nesbit later testified in court. (There are conflicting accounts as to whether the swing was installed in White's tower apartment at Madison Square Garden – which he designed – or if it was in a nearby building on 24th Street.)
When her mother was temporarily out of the city, White allegedly took Nesbit's virginity, after getting her to pose for a number of suggestive photographs in a yellow silk kimono, and plying her with champagne. Nesbit told this story to her first husband, possibly after considerable coercion. But at the end of her life she claimed that the charismatic "Stanny" was the only man she had ever loved.

Photo by American portrait photographer Gertrude Käsebier. This was considered a VERY sexy photo at the time. I assume the empty pitcher means that she was a vessel to be "filled"...
Innocent but ripe for the picking as it were.

This book was a real page turner. Evelyn was basically sold by her mother to the highest bidder and then left to make the best of things with a young John Barrymore, and then the fabulously rich and crazy Harry Thaw. The telling of this story is done with wit and much juicy detail. She really was a beautiful woman and was a canvas for much fantasy at the time!

Photo by Rudolph Eichemeyer, Jr.
Talk to you later,
She had an unequalled gift... of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.
- Henry James (1843 - 1916)

1 comment:

TM said...

So weird....I just got out of my car a few minutes ago....and was listerning to a show about Anne of Green Gables. The moderator mentioned Evelyn Nesbit's looks in some refrefence to Anne. I had never heard the name Evelyn Nesbit before. Now I check out your blog, and here it is! Strange! tm