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The scandalous story of America’s first supermodel, sex goddess, and modern celebrity—Evelyn Nesbit.
By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume. Women wanted to be her. Men just wanted her. But when Evelyn’s life of fantasy became all too real and her insanely jealous millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw, murdered her lover, New York City architect Stanford White, the most famous woman in the world became infamous as she found herself at the center of the “Crime of the Century” and a scandal that signaled the beginning of a national obsession with youth, beauty, celebrity, and sex.
socially insecure mother-in-law, Evelyn attended the shows Harry selected with an air of wistfulness mixed with a whiff of regret and more than a little resentment. Harry had gone early in the morning to the steamship office down on lower Broadway to get their tickets for the trip. He met a friend there, Jimmie Gerard, who was also booking passage for himself and his wife. They briefly chatted about the unusual weather, then Harry went back uptown, had lunch with Evelyn in their hotel suite, and
in a frightful manner.” And then, the court clerk’s voice rang out, “Evelyn Nesbit Thaw.” Delmas approached her again with a benevolent smile on his face, one hand in his vest pocket. Letters that Harry had written to Evelyn during the period she had avoided him were read out loud. One was signed, “From one about to die,” which was so like Harry in a certain mood that Evelyn almost smiled. Other letters were read, revealing not only how troubled Harry was about White, but how his troubled mind
daughter’s nom de théâtre only when she wanted to indicate disapproval.) But if all the teenager cared about was having fun, followed by falling into bed out of sheer exhaustion, oblivious to her mother’s criticism of her imagined outrageous conduct, then Mamma Nesbit’s chief concern was that Evelyn not ruin a good thing by losing any precious beauty sleep. Apparently, the possibility of Evelyn’s moral ruination wasn’t enough of a concern for her mother to put an end to posing, performing, and
different she may have looked from one image or photograph to the next, the public felt they knew her. Women wanted to be her; men wanted to own her. She became a maddening object of desire, and tragically, a victim of her own beguiling beauty during the “gaudy spree,” which she would help bring to a stunningly shameful end. At first the publicity that swirled and hummed around Evelyn would have you believe that hers was a fairy-tale existence. She was seen as a modern-day Cinderella who came
Part princess, part prizefighter, depending on her mood, Florence Evelyn lived for her father’s praise, and he in turn doted on her. Of course as the head of the house and sole wage earner, Win was the central figure in the family and the dominant force in Florence Evelyn’s life. Unusually progressive about the intellectual capabilities of “the weaker sex,” Winfield encouraged his daughter’s early interest in reading by building a small library at home of her favorite books. The majority were