During the set up for the 1893 Worlds Colombian Exhibition in Chicago there was a shortage of qualified sculpture assistants and skilled workmen to assist the artists with the hundreds of sculptural works that were to be exhibited.  All of the most famous artists form the United States were participating by creating works for this "World's Fair".  The list of sculptural exhibitors is a virtual who's who of the art world. Alexander Phimister Proctor, Edward Kemeys, Cyrus Dallin, and Herman Atkin MacNeil prepared sculptures of native wild American animals to surround the the great central basin pool. The prominent American sculptor Fredrick MacMonnies came over from his studio in Paris to create the centerpiece of the the the fair, an enormous undertaking of 30 feet long and 18 feet tall, having a total of 38 figures on it, titled "The Grand Barge of State". This elaborate monumental fountain was entirely surrounded by water with enormous geysers spraying around it. Daniel Chester French's 65 foot tall gilt statue titled "Republic" stood at the other end of the 1,000 foot long reflecting pool facing MacMonnies fountain. Atop every "Palace", as the exhibition halls were known as, were mythological and allegorical figures.   Augustus Saint-Gaudens was commissioned to do a bas relief medallion for the Exhibition as well as his famous 18 foot tall "Diana of the Tower" for the dome of the Agricultural Building.  So many sculptors were involved creating works for this Exhibition that there was no one left to assist with the construction and erection of the works.  Lorado Taft was in charge of coordinating with all of the sculptors and he was going mad from trying to find qualified assistants for this grand assembly of Americas finest sculptors. In desperation and during a meeting with Daniel Burnham the director of the Fair, Taft asked if he could hire women assistants, something that was unheard of in 1893. Burnham, who was quickly running out of time as the opening date neared, was to have told Taft  "Employ anyone who can do the work..... hire white rabbits if they can help out".

The group of women that Taft hired were to become some of the best know sculptors in America.  The were known as Taft's White Rabbits.  Here are some of the women who did the real work on the sculptures at the Chicago World's Colombian Exhibit.

Janet Scudder

Carol Brooks MacNeil

Bessie Potter Vonnoh

Evelyn Beartice Longnman

Margaret Gerow

Mary Lawerence

Helen Farnsworth Mears




Besides being assistants for the creation of the monuments and decorative facades of the buildings Janet Scudder and Helen Farnsworth Mears were given commissions for sculptures that were exhibited at the fair.  These being the earliest public commissions for sculpture awarded to women in the United States.  The experience and exposure given to this group of talented women vaulted many on to very successful careers in sculpture.