Throughout the course of her husband’s trial, Evelyn Nesbit’s upbringing was scrutinized by his lawyer, Delphin Delmas. Her mother’s judgment and moral standing was questioned as details of her youth emerged. During the trial, it was publicly revealed that Stanford White had raped Evelyn in her teenage years.1Although it is unknown whether Evelyn had ever mentioned the assault to her mother, the continuation of her relationship with White, as well as large sums of money and gifts from him following that event drew condemnation to her judgment.
Delmas made many attempts to shame Evelyn during the trial. He asked her if she was a frequent churchgoer and if she had gone to Sunday school as a child, which she had done only on occasions.2He also questioned if she had posed for artists in the nude and whether she thought she was better than other women.3The questions Delmas presented to her revealed nothing of importance in the murder trial, and were merely ploys to render guilt.
Much of what Delmas said in court were accusations towards Evelyn’s mother. He knew the family’s monetary struggles before Evelyn began working as a muse. He also pointed out that her beauty was the only reason she received most of her jobs, and came into contact with both Stanford White and Harry Thaw. He proclaimed to the court, “But nature had endowed her with the fatal gift of beauty — a beauty which manifested itself in early youth, a gift which the mother soon saw means of support for the family.”4
Evelyn’s choices in her adult life, were greatly influenced by her upbringing. Many of her mother’s decisions were motivated by financial security. Evelyn seemed to adhere to this as an adult, as she only became romantically involved with millionaires. Nonetheless, her relationships were marked with abuse and manipulation from her mother. Evelyn was merely a victim, rather than the dangerous beauty with questionable standards portrayed during Harry Thaw’s trial.