Monday 6 September 2021

Book ~ "Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion" (2021) Tori Telfer

From Goodreads ~ From Elizabeth Holmes and Anna Delvey to Frank Abagnale and Charles Ponzi, audacious scams and charismatic scammers continue to intrigue us as a culture. As Tori Telfer reveals in Confident Women, the art of the con has a long and venerable tradition, and its female practitioners are some of the best - or worst.

In the 1700s in Paris, Jeanne de Saint-Rémy scammed the royal jewelers out of a necklace made from six hundred and forty-seven diamonds by pretending she was best friends with Queen Marie Antoinette.

In the mid-1800s, sisters Kate and Maggie Fox began pretending they could speak to spirits and accidentally started a religious movement that was soon crawling with female con artists. A gal calling herself Loreta Janeta Velasquez claimed to be a soldier and convinced people she worked for the Confederacy - or the Union, depending on who she was talking to. Meanwhile, Cassie Chadwick was forging paperwork and getting banks to loan her upwards of $40,000 by telling people she was Andrew Carnegie’s illegitimate daughter.

In the 1900s, a 40something woman named Margaret Lydia Burton embezzled money all over the country and stole upwards of forty prized show dogs, while a few decades later, a teenager named Roxie Ann Rice scammed the entire NFL. And since the death of the Romanovs, women claiming to be Anastasia have been selling their stories to magazines. What about today? Spoiler alert: these “artists” are still conning.

Confident Women asks the provocative question: Where does chutzpah intersect with a uniquely female pathology—and how were these notorious women able to so spectacularly dupe and swindle their victims?

I like reading true stories and I thought reading about female con women would be interesting ... and it was.

The stories range from women scamming hundreds of years ago to recent times.  I hadn't heard of most of the women or their situations (I knew who Bonny Lee Bakley, who was murdered while married to actor Robert Blake, was and have heard about the possibility that Anastasia Romanov might have lived rather than being executed with her family).  I found myself stopping and Googling to get more information on some of the more interesting stories.  Plus I was curious to see what these women looked like and how they were able to use their looks to charm people.  It's amazing how gullible people can be (which shows how good these con women are).  I didn't know that best selling author Jude Devereaux had gotten duped into paying a psychic almost $20 million dollars over 17 years because she was "cursed"!

I liked the writing style.  It was fairly high level and didn't get into too many details, which I liked.  As I said, if I wanted to know more about a story, I Googled it.

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