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About this lecture

The Center for the Study of Women and Society and Women Writing Women's Lives present the Dorothy O. Helly Works-in-Progress Lecture "Queen of the Underworld: the story of Sophie Lyons, America’s most notorious con woman" by Barbara Gray.

Join Barbara Gray, who will discuss her biography of Sophie Lyons, a notorious nineteenth-century American pickpocket, blackmailer, con woman, and bank burglar, turned twentieth-century reformer and philanthropist. Gray will focus on the challenges of her on-going work with the autobiography of a professional liar as source material, and how she has winnowed Sophie’s life of dishonesty and spectacle to identify what drove her to succeed in a man’s profession, achieve power, and find a voice to legitimately challenge society’s conventions of womanhood, sexuality, and criminality. She will emphasize why it is important to hear the stories of criminal women in history.

Barbara Gray is Chief Librarian and Associate Professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, where she teaches newsgathering research methods. She is the former director of news research at The New York Times. Gray was one of twenty new biographers chosen to attend the first Biography Clinic in 2013 at the Leon Levy Center for Biography. Her 2014 Master’s thesis was a co-winner of the 2015 MALS thesis prize at the Graduate Center, CUNY and was awarded a PSC-CUNY Faculty Research Award in 2016.

Cosponsored with the Leon Levy Center for Biography, the PhD Programs in History and English, MA Program in Liberal Studies, MA Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, the Center for the Humanities, and The Feminist Press at the Graduate Center, CUNY.