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Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon Paperback – November 1, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060542578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060542573
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #371,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Hetty Green (1835-1916) was the only woman to make her mark in the financial markets during the Guilded Age of the late 1800s. She parlayed an inheritance of $500,000 into $100 million ($2.5 billion in current money), amassing fortunes in U.S. bonds and real estate through impeccable timing. Immortalized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "world's greatest miser," she kept her family living in modest tenements, dressed in drab clothes, and was a notorious penny-pincher. Dubbed the "Witch of Wall Street," she was widely believed to live an unhappy existence despite her riches. Slack's account reveals a much more multidimensional character than Green was popularly believed to be; yes, she was eccentric, but her wry wit and colorful personality bring humor and pathos to this story. She was unfairly vilified because of her sex, and readers cannot help from cheering for her at every turn. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“[An] instructive account…. Slack offers an exemplary retelling for a new generation.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Slack concentrates on telling a good story and telling it well.... [An] entertaining biography.” (Publishers Weekly)

“A wonderfully detailed new biography.” (Forbes)

“[A] page-turning portrait of an important and complicated woman.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“[A] nuanced portrait.” (Newsweek)

“A fascinating book.” (New York Post)

“Fascinating.” (Tucson Citizen)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

It is very well written and highly entertaining.
Paul Tognetti
Hetty Green was the most powerful woman this country has had until very recent times and this is the story of how she lived her life.
Charles Ashbacher
It seems to me that a woman who lived into her eighties must have had good days when she was warm, giving, and caring.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Alex Krooglik on December 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hetty Green was an outsider, a woman in the man's world of Wall Street in the latter 19th and early 20th centuries who was estimated to be worth $100m at the time of her death, or over $1.5bn in today's money.

Hetty became incredibly wealthy by following the "buy low, sell high" rule ruthlessly in real estate, bonds, and stocks. She is remembered as a miser, pedant, and grouch but this reflects the prevailing attitude of the times, where a woman doing the "dirty" work of investing and wealth creation was generally looked down upon.

This short and tidy synopsis of Hetty's life and times makes for great reading, covering the period 1830 to around 1920. The book seems very balanced, finding much good to say about Hetty but she is not idolized and her rough demeanor and pushy personality are evident. After reading this, I am convinced that Warren Buffett would have found her a very tough competitor.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hetty Green is commonly called the Witch of Wall Street and has the dubious distinction as being listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as a miser. While her frugality is well documented, a lot of her reputation for meanness is undeserved. Much of that is due to the fact that she was the only woman of that time who managed her own money and the fact that she was very successful in doing so. Unlike so many of her fellow superrich of the time, she did not flaunt her wealth, taking public transportation and living in a modest dwelling. Also, in direct contrast to many people of wealth and power, she did not care what others (her fellow rich) thought of her.

The most distinctive point regarding her life is the contrast between her and the male robber barons of her time. People such as Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller and J. P. Morgan considered it their god-given right to exploit their workers and customers. Worker injury rates were high, work hours were long, and these men amassed massive fortunes on the backs of others. The fact that they spent millions for public works in their later years should not overshadow that fact. Furthermore, wealthy men often thought nothing of milking the public treasury and deceiving investors.

As Slack points out in great detail, Hetty was different, in that while she had a competitive fire that made her ferocious in her business dealings, it was reserved for her opponents. There were many times when she loaned money to public institutions at rates much lower than she could have otherwise earned. She single-handedly bailed the city of New York out several times, loaning money at an interest rate almost half the current rate.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Having thoroughly enjoyed Charles Slack's marvelous 2003 offering "Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock The Greatest Industrial Secret of the Nineteeth Century", I was eager to read "Hetty" despite the fact that I had never even heard of her. She is a largely forgotten figure in American history. In his "Acknowlegements" at the end of the book, author Charles Slack recalls that he embarked on this project at the urging of his mother despite the fact that at the outset "I only had the vaguest idea of who she was talking about."

Hetty Green was the daughter of Edward Mott Robinson of New Bedford, Mass. Robinson made his fortune in whaling and his daughter Hetty exhibited a keen interest in business from a very early age. This was highly unusual for a young girl in those days but Hetty was determined to follow in her fathers footsteps. Hetty was raised a Quaker and as such she did not believe in showering herself with luxuries. Rather, she spent virtually her entire life scrimping and saving. This was certainly not necessary because Hetty Green would become by all accounts the richest woman in the world. She owned dozens of buildings in New York, Boston, Chicago and St.Louis. She owned warehouses and gold mines and was also a major player in the emerging railroad industry. She would be a force to be reckoned with on the American financial scene for more than half a century. And you did not cross Hetty Green as her archrival, the legendary industrialist Collis P. Huntington, would discover early on. At the time of her passing in 1916, her empire was conservatively estimated to be valued at more than $100.000.000!!!

Charles Slack is a marvelous storyteller.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Laney3 on January 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I would make this book required reading for students of American History. One single page can interest the reader to do more research. For instance, the whaling industry in the 1830's, historical homes to visit, a view of Wall Street so long ago...

The writing is excellent and I am an avid reader of biographies. I am also a daughter of a Wall Street stock broker. I had heard of the infamous Hetty Green; the "Witch of Wall Street". And to think.. someone finally wrote a book...WOW!

I grabbed the book off the shelf at Barnes & Noble and was not dissappointed. Excellent writing. So well written.. Three cheers for the author. I am grateful that somone wrote a book on this incredible woman. Now I know more about her. Facinating...
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