In the weeks prior to the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, sculptor Lorado Taft realized that he would be unable to finish his work without some significant assistance. Since no male sculptors were available, he asked for permission to hire some of his female students. The response he received was that he could "hire anyone, even white rabbits, if they can get the work done." From this group of young, female students would come some of the most well known women sculptors of the next generation, including Bessie Onahotema Potter Vonnoh.
She studied with Taft, and then moved to Paris to complete her studies. When she returned she was almost immediately a highly sought after artist, known for her eloquent, small bronze statues and fountains of graceful female figures and studies of mothers and their children. She was a friend of Augustus Saint Gaudens as well as Rodin, both of whom she visited in their studios.
She married painter Robert Vonnoh in 1899 and the two were remarkably supportive of one another's careers. In fact, he waited for her to complete a commission portrait of Maude Adams for the Paris Exposition of 1900 before they married. They lived in New York City and in the artist's community of Old Lyme, Connecticut.
She was made a member of the National Sculpture Society in 1899, and in 1913 she had a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. Her life size portrait of James Sherman is in the United States Capitol building. She was also the first woman to gain a place in the National Academy of Design.
Her works are in the collections of many museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Central Park Memorial and the United States Senate Art Collection.