The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach

The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publication Date: September 2012
Categories: Historical, Business, Women
Source: Library

Description via

No woman in the Gilded Age made as much money as Hetty Green. At the time of her death in 1916, she was worth at least 100 million dollars, equal to more than 2 billion dollars today. A strong believer in women being financially independent, she offered valuable lessons for the present times.

Abandoned at birth by her neurotic mother, scorned by her misogynist father, Hetty set out as a child to prove her value. Following the simple rules of her wealthy Quaker father, she successfully invested her money and along the way proved to herself that she was wealthy and therefore worthy. 

Never losing faith in America’s potential, she ignored the herd mentality and took advantage of financial panics and crises. When everyone else was selling, she bought railroads, real estate, and government bonds. And when everyone was buying and borrowing, she put her money into cash and earned safe returns on her dollars. Men mocked her and women scoffed at her frugal ways, but she turned her back and piled up her earnings, amassing a fortune that supported businesses, churches, municipalities, and even the city of New York itself. 

My Thoughts:

Go Hetty Go! This was one awesome woman. Why didn’t I know about her before I read this book? I don’t know! Her wealth was on par with the Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Astor families. We know those names because the men in those families were captains of industry and giant money makers.

Hetty Green was the richest woman in America. Her father did leave her a sizable nest egg, but she made the vast amount of her money on her own. How did she do it with that delicate girly brain of hers? My word, lady heads weren’t made for facts and figures! She was, in fact, looked upon as strange because she didn’t drape herself in satin and jewels and throw numerous parties as other wealthy women of the time did. The press attacked her for being unladylike and for sticking her nose into men’s business. 

The financial crashes surrounding the Gilded Age closely mirror our own economic problems. It was interesting to read about how the same mistakes are made time and time again. The author compares Hetty Green to Warren Buffet. A rich person who doesn’t do with his money what people think he should be doing. (He lives simply, how dare he?!)

I’m very glad I read this book and I’m very glad to know about Hetty Green. I think you will be too.

14 thoughts on “The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age by Janet Wallach

  1. I've read a little about the book but now I want to put it on my soon TBR pile, it sounds fascinating and the social aspects even better. Good point about the families we know about, even nowadays that will continue because of the way history was, it'll take books like this to change it.


  2. You've talked me into it! I've heard of this book before, but now I will definitely read it. Such an interesting time in our history and such an interesting and determined woman.


  3. Wow! It makes you wonder what Ms. Hetty would be doing today. Sounds like she would make for quite an influential figure! I'm not familiar with her either but it sounds like a great book. I love nonfiction and am always looking for a great one to listen to.


  4. My oh my, a woman who works to make a living! I feel faint! Puh-leez! That kind of stuff drives me crazy, so this book sounds really interesting because she broke those boundaries and did things her way. And was super successful because of it (which I am sure drove people completely nuts)!!!


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