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Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters, and Shapeshifters with Tori Telfer

March 10, 2021 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


  • All registrants receive 10% off book purchase with code ‘EVENT’

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This is my book about actual con women, historical and current, American and international.

If I do say so myself, these stories are REALLY INTERESTING! And a lot less bloody than my first book…though there is still blood.

“Telfer not only tells a convincingly creepy story, she gives each case a cultural context, explaining what would drive a woman to this particular kind of madness…. Telfer knows her way around a pop phrase. Her work is bracingly non-stuffy, with a tone similar to that of Mary Roach’s Stiff. Lady Killers most definitely entertains.” —NPR

A thoroughly entertaining and darkly humorous roundup of history’s notorious but often forgotten female con artists and their bold, outrageous scams—by the acclaimed author of Lady Killers.

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?


Tori Telfer graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University with a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing. She was the recipient of both the Edwin L. Shuman Best Senior Honors Thesis in the English Major in Writing Award and the Edwin L. Shuman Fiction Award; an NU Undergraduate Research Symposium award; the J.G Nolan Scholarship and the Hulda & Maurice Rothschild Endowment for academic excellence; and a membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

After college, she worked in children’s publishing and teaching before going freelance. Over her eight years of freelance experience, she has written marketing copy for everything from specialty manicure tools to indie theater companies, worked with CEOs and startup founders as the editor-in-chief of Hippo Thinks to help them publish in places like Forbes and Fast Company, edited numerous PhD dissertations, written viral reported pieces, and been featured several times on longform.org.  She has also done plenty of catering, which she not-so-secretly adores.

Her writing has appeared in The Believer, The Atlantic (online), Rolling Stone (online), Smithsonian (online), Vulture, Salon, Vice, Longreads, Racked, Jezebel, The Hairpin, The Awl,  and elsewhere. Her screenplay, DETECTIVE IN THE CITY OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, was awarded honorable mention in the Table Read My Screenplay contest. She has written, produced, and directed two plays. She has hosted three podcasts: Criminal Broads, on the Lit Hub Radio network, Red Flags, with Investigation Discovery, and Why Women Kill, with CBS All Access. (See Podcasts for more details.)

Her first book, LADY KILLERS (Harper Perennial), was published on October 10, 2017. It’s a “thrilling character study of the most diabolically complex, fascinating female psychopaths in history” (New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps), and it has been published in Brazil, Poland, the UK, Spain, and Korea (forthcoming). Her second book, CONFIDENT WOMEN (Harper Perennial) comes out on February 23, 2021. It’s a little less bloody, and it’s absolutely packed with pseudonyms.


Emilie Lucchesi, PhD. She is the author of Ugly Prey: An Innocent Woman and the Death Sentence that Scandalized Jazz Age Chicago, and This is Really War: The Incredible True Story of a Navy Nurse POW in the Occupied Philippines. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Discover Magazine, The Atlantic (online), the Chicago Tribune, and the nation’s largest newspapers. She holds a PhD from the University of Illinois-Chicago in communication. She is from Oak Park, IL where she lives with her husband and two small dogs.


March 10, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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