Abastenia St. Leger Eberle (1878–1942) was a native of Webster City, Iowa. She initially studied to become a professional musician, but eventually enrolled in the Art Students League in New York.
She achieved early success with her sculpture “Men and Bull,” created in collaboration with Anna Hyatt and shown at the 1904 exhibition of the Society of American Artists. In 1906 she was elected to the National Sculpture Society.
St. Leger Eberle worked in a style related to Art Nouveau and the New Sculpture movement. She produced mainly portrait sculpture and decorative work, some of which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Her most famous piece, “The White Slave,” was exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show in New York, and caused “a storm of violent controversy.” The sculpture represented a nude young girl being literally led into prostitution, which at the time was euphemistically called white slavery.
Following this success she created a number of sculptures of working class children from the Lower East Side, depicting them at play and work. These represented “the vitality of the city’s immigrant population”. By 1930 she was forced to leave New York because of financial and health problems and settled in Westport, Connecticut.
Eberle believed that art should have a social function, writing that artists “had no right to work as an individualist with no responsibility to others. [Artists] must see for people – reveal them to themselves and each other.”
Pictured: “A Windy Doorstep”