She was standing in front of her home in SoHo, New York, smoking a cigarette, when a pair of robbers confronted her.
One of them pointed a gun at her. Instead of cowering in fear, she stared back and him and told him he didn't have "the ****s" to shoot her.
The woman, Ms Anna Graham, is wife of world-renowned Russia-born sculptor Ernst Neizvestny.
Ms Graham was watching a car for two friends who were about to leave when the incident happened early this month.
One robber began rummaging through the car, while the other pointed the gun at her, the New York Daily News reported.
Said the feisty 54-year-old: "He asked me for my wallet and I said, 'Are you kidding me?' I was in my pyjamas! That's when the gun went against my forehead.
"He said, 'I'll shoot you, b****!' I said, 'No, you won't.'"
She said the other robber was saying, "shoot, shoot", even as his accomplice lowered the gun to her chest.
"I said, 'It's not easy to shoot someone. You have to have ****s to do that. And you have none.'" She said she was looking in his eyes all along.
Said Ms Graham: "For a second there, I saw fear - for just a split second. I went against all the rules, everything he knew about life."
Her life was hanging by a thread, when one of her friends came out of the building and pounced on the unarmed robber. But his kick sent Ms Graham's friend flying.
They called the police and the suspects fled, but not before grabbing an iPad mini, a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone and US$600 (S$757) in cash from the car, police said. The suspects are still at large.
Even days after the incident, Ms Graham said she is still stunned by her bold stand.
She said: "I was standing basically outside of myself. I don't know why I did what I did."
Her husband, Mr Neizvestny, became famous in the 1950s and 1960s for his anti-war sculptures.