HETTY: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon

Charles Slack, Author . Ecco $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-054256-6

At the time of her death, Hetty Green (1834–1916) was the wealthiest woman in America, having amassed a $100-million fortune. Perhaps unfairly, however, she is remembered primarily as a mean, litigious and compulsive tightwad who bought bags of broken cookies because they were cheap and who posed as a pauper so doctors would treat her free of charge. In his entertaining biography, Slack (Noble Obsession ) tells how this "Wizard of Finance" built an empire of stocks, bonds, railroads, real estate and cash reserves—a considerable achievement for a woman of her time—by devoting every waking moment to making money according to simple principles: buy low, sell high and don't go to pieces in a panic. Stubborn and vindictive, Hetty exacted harsh revenge on her financial enemies, and popular opinion held that such a woman couldn't possibly be happy. But Slack demonstrates otherwise, arguing that Hetty was perfectly content and was merely living according to her own rules. Her children, though, may have been less at ease: Hetty's daughter, who long lived in Hetty's shadow, had the family mansion demolished after Hetty died, and her son made his mark as a big spender. Slack doesn't try to find a moral here; he just concentrates on telling a good story and telling it well. Photos not seen by PW . Agent, Andrew Blauner. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-203811-1
Paperback - 258 pages - 978-0-06-054257-3
Show other formats
Discover what to read next