Thanks to her success as a Floradora girl, Evelyn Nesbit was offered a one-year contract to perform in The Wild Rose. And instead of being in a group of chorus girls, Evelyn was given a real role.
All New York was in love with her beauty. Her acting, less so. “As an actress, she was impossible. She had no talent. Even physical beauty will not carry a woman of the stage to favor if she cannot sing or act,” ran a March 15, 1907 piece in the United Opinion.
White persuaded Mrs. Nesbit to return to Pennsylvania for a visit and sweetly promised to look after 16-year-old Evelyn while she was away. Having already disposed of Evelyn’s brother Howard by sending him to Philadelphia for an expensive education, White was now alone with Evelyn. After Mrs. Nesbit’s departure, White invited Evelyn to his West 24th Street studio, where he arranged for photos to be taken of her.
Florence Evelyn Nesbit was born on Christmas day in 1884, to Winfield and Evelyn Nesbit. At the time, the couple resided in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. Evelyn was their first child, and two years later a son followed, whom they named Howard.
Winfield Scott Nesbit was a likable, unsuccessful man. He was educated and made a living as an attorney. He was fond of his daughter: he encouraged her love of books, and paid for music and dancing lessons. Her mother was less educated and intelligent, though probably not a bad sort. During Evelyn’s early years, her life was devoted to being a housewife and mother.
Two years after the family moved to Pittsburgh, when Evelyn was 11 years old, her father died suddenly. In departing the earth, he left his family nothing but debt to remember him by. After losing their home, there were a miserable few years where they seem to have lived entirely on the charity of the family and some friends. Evelyn and Howard often stayed with relatives when their mother could not make ends meet.
After an unsuccessful stint running a boarding house, Mrs. Nesbit relocated to Philadelphia, in hopes of finding work as a seamstress. Again unsuccessful in plying her trade, Mrs. Nesbit managed to land a job at a department store. Though she worked long hours almost daily, she sent for 14-year-old Evelyn and her brother. They obtained jobs at the store too.
It was here that a momentous event took place in Evelyn’s life: a female artist asked her to pose, and paid her a dollar to sit for five hours. The artist must have been happy with the result: she introduced Evelyn to her friends and fellow artists. Soon, Evelyn was modeling for all of them.