The Tragic End of America’s First Supermodel
From Hollywood fame to abandoned muse.
Somewhere in 1990s New York, a distraught elderly woman rushes into a smoke-filled bar.
Everyone stops to stare at this frantic, unkempt woman who has just dashed across a four-lane highway.
She begins telling grandiose tales of her once-iconic beauty and of a previous life of fame. The patrons of the bar ignore this pitiful old woman. Not long after her entrance, the police arrive to take her back to the nearby mental asylum where she lives.
50 cents an hour to get naked
Her story began in 1909 when as a teenager, she caught the eye of a photographer who offered her money in exchange for photographing her beauty. As an impoverished young girl from Rhode Island, she jumped at the chance to make her own living.
She first began posing for photographers and eventually for sculptors. She was paid 50 cents per hour to expose her naked body to strange men in their cold, damp studios.
Between 1909 and 1921, she was the subject of dozens of statues all over the United States. Her likeness appeared 30 times at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and she was the subject of most of the statues at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition.
Her image is most prominent in New York City.
Her face and body can be seen in the Pulitzer Fountain, the Manhattan Municipal Building, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Public Library, Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial, the Firemen’s Memorial, and numerous other locations.
Her popularity in New York earned her the nickname “Miss Manhattan”.