A full century before Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Madonna became icons, generations before women swept through Wall Street, and decades before they even had the right to vote, there was Hetty Green, America's richest woman, who stood alone among the roguish giants of the Gilded Age as the first lady of capitalism and is remembered as the Witch of Wall Street.
At the time of her death in 1916, Hetty Green's personal fortune was estimated at $100 million ($1.6 billion today), and the financial empire she built on real estate and railroads rivaled that of Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and some of the nation's biggest banks. Today, Hetty Green ranks near the top of America's list of greatest financiers, in company with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and billionaire-investor Warren Buffett. But in history books she has remained merely a footnote, a miser and an eccentric, whose character flaws and personal choices unjustly overshadowed her remarkable accomplishments on the fierce battlefield of American industry and commerce.
In Hetty, Charles Slack reexamines the life, work, and conflicted legacy of the exceptionally resourceful, ruthless, and inimitable woman who turned a comfortable inheritance into a fortune through instinct, courage, cunning, greed, and determination to succeed at a man's game on her own terms: from her childhood in the Quaker community of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where she learned about business by reading financial papers to her father, to the battle over her inheritance that was one of the most controversial legal cases of her time; from her collisions with railroad magnate Collis Huntington to her rescue of New York City from financial ruin.
Looking well beyond the lore and historical prejudices, Charles Slack presents a full portrait of a true American original, a female Citizen Kane who, having turned away from the conventions of her time, as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a mogul, led a life of a different sort, with occasionally tragic results, becoming both a hero and a victim of her era. Above all, it is a story of an uncompromising, larger-than-life, flawed woman who ruled a vast financial empire but was known, simply, as Hetty.
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When J. P. Morgan called a meeting of New York's financial leaders after the stock market crash of 1907, Hetty Green was the only woman in the room. The Guinness Book of World Records memorialized her as the World's Greatest Miser, and, indeed, this unlikely robber baron -- who parlayed a comfortable inheritance into a fortune that was worth about 1.6 billion in today's dollars -- was frugal to a fault. But in an age when women weren't even allowed to vote, never mind concern themselves with interest rates, she lived by her own rules. In Hetty, Charles Slack reexamines her life and legacy, giving us, at long last, a splendidly "nuanced portrait" (Newsweek) of one of the greatest -- and most eccentric -- financiers in American history.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.About the Author:
Charles Slack is the author of Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of the Nineteenth Century, named one of the New York Public Library's twenty-five "Books to Remember" for 2002, and Blue Fairways: Three Months, Sixty Courses, No Mulligans. His writing has appeared in many national magazines. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Barbara, and their daughters, Natalie and Caroline.
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