The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman (Hardback)
The Life and Crimes of Mrs Gordon Baillie
'The story of Mrs. Gordon Baillie is stranger than anything to be met with in the field of fiction.'
Mrs. Gordon Baillie, known throughout her life as Annie, was born in the direst poverty in the small Scottish fishing town of Peterhead in 1848. Illegitimate and illiterate her beauty and intelligence nevertheless enabled her to overcome her circumstances and become a charming and wealthy socialite living a life of luxury whilst raising money for worthy causes and charitable works.
Behind her supposed perfect and contented life, however, lay one of the most notorious and compulsive swindlers of the Victorian Age. Her fraudulent fundraising and larger-than-life schemes played out across four decades and three continents, Europe, America and Australasia, and involved land owners crofters, aristocrats, politicians, bankers, socialist revolutionaries, operatic stars and the cultural icons of the day.
She became mistress to a rich aristocrat, married a world-renowned male opera singer and later took as a lover a vicar's son with anarchist tendencies. For most of her 'career' she kept one step ahead of the law and her nemesis, Inspector Henry Marshall of Scotland Yard, but finally becoming undone through her own compulsion for petty theft, despite her amassed fortune.
During her life she used more than 40 aliases, produced four children and spent her way through millions of ill-gotten pounds, dollars and other currencies. But at the turn of the twentieth century, her notoriety was such that she took refuge in America and disappeared from history.
Interview with author David Lassman and presenter Simon ParkinBBC Radio Somerset, 25th January 2021
Mrs. Gordon Baillie, or Annie, is a Victorian con woman that I knew nothing about before picking up this book. I loved reading about her wide variety of ways in which to swindle people out of something, and it was exciting to learn about her ways of escape just before she would have been caught.NetGalley, BreeAnn Kaczmarczyk
There were some parts that created a more humorous view of Annie's situations, and I enjoyed those as I found myself laughing out loud! The story is written so that while we are learning about her, it feels more like a story and less like a non-fiction history book. It was a good mix of info and story.
Oh my goodness, this book had me giggling in a few parts - but it was so well done, and put together. You can follow the criminal career of Annie with ease!NetGalley, Rebecca Hill
>From cloaks to asking for fair for transportation, to swindling people out of money for "good works," Annie ran the gambit, doing everything she could to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, while skipping out just in time to keep from being arrested. The police seemed to be one step behind her at every turn.
I enjoyed this read, and the exploits of the dominating Annie.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Brenda Carleton
Notorious Mrs. Gordon Baillie (aka Annie and about 40 other aliases) was a fascinating con woman who lived in the Victorian era, a woman I had not heard of before. But now she will stick out in my mind as her life was absolutely crowded with ingratiating, stealing and racking up debts everywhere she went. And I mean everywhere. When finally found out by Inspector Marshall, in the courtroom evidence was heard from a huge range of people she swindled including a butcher, jeweler, milliner, bankers and many more. She even sold furniture from homes which weren't hers. She largely got away with it for ages! One of her favourite excuses was "forgetting" her purse. Every time things got "hot" she packed up and moved with her servants. Yes, she had servants! Mostly unpaid, of course. She must have had stamina and energy in spades, especially as she also had children, though they did not seem to be important to her.
On the outset she had three immense strikes against her...she was born poor (in Scotland), she was illegitimate and she was female. Her childhood was challenging and it seems to have affected her life thereafter. Her birth was not recorded, either, which made things interesting later. However, she was known to be very beautiful which was advantageous. She was clever, too, and had a way of "borrowing" money then not paying her debts without batting a beautiful eye. She was soon mingling with the rich and famous and married money as well. Her lifestyle was extravagant. However, her compulsiveness continued, probably for the excitement and thrill of not getting caught. Perhaps she became so accustomed to it she was able to justify her lies. She left swaths of debt in several countries.
In spite of her deceit, escapades and prison sentences, I can't help but admire her tenacity and cleverness. Admittedly she was a remarkable woman, very interesting to read about. Non-Fiction readers who wish for something unique and absolutely riveting, look no further than this gem of a book. The authors clearly did their research!
The Adventures of a Victorian Con Woman
25th January 1899
Annie – Mrs. Gordon Baillie – was released from her second-long spell of imprisonment (this time from Aylesbury Prison). She was 51 years old and internationally known as a notorious swindler and con-artist.