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Extended Audio Sample The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age, by Janet Wallach Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (144 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Janet Wallach Narrator: Coleen Marlo Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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A captivating biography of America’s first female tycoon, Hetty Green, the iconoclast who forged one of the greatest fortunes of her time.

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 one hundred million dollars, equal to more than two 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. 

She relished a challenge. When her aunt died and did not leave Hetty the fortune she expected, she plunged into a groundbreaking lawsuit that still resonates in law schools and courts. When her husband defied her and sank her money on his own risky interests, she threw him out and, marching down to Wall Street, quickly made up the loss. Her independence, outspokenness, and disdain for the upper crust earned her a reputation for harshness that endured for decades. Newspapers kept her in the headlines, linking her name with witches and miscreants. Yet those who knew her admired her warmth, her wisdom, and her wit. 

Set during a period of financial crisis strikingly similar to our current one, acclaimed author Janet Wallach’s engrossing exploration of a fascinating life revives a rarely-mentioned queen of American finance.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An enthusiastic portrait of an investment pioneer who matched her male counterparts in ambition and guile, and one who never backed down from a fight, legal or otherwise…Wallach’s book is filled with colorful historical details of an economic time that eerily parallels our own—an unpredictable real estate market, lax banking policies, and over-exuberant investors who rode the next big thing until its inevitable crash.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Wallach does an admirable job putting together a more complete picture of the fascinating and ground-breaking Green beyond her ‘Witch of Wall Street’ reputation.”

    USA Today

  • “Well-researched and well-written…Hetty Green was a talented investor who had the bad luck to be born in an era when a guild, the guild of Victorian men, shut out a whole class of minds—women’s.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A lively book that whisks readers through five decades of Green’s wheeling and dealing…Wallach brings a warm empathy to her account of Green’s life and times.”

    Daily Beast

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Denise | 1/18/2014

    " Great background on Hetty Green & the Gilded Age. It's so important to have wonderful books on American women. It would be so easy for them and their contribution to American society to be erased. Thank you, Janet, for this book and for The Desert Queen, too. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Margaret Sankey | 1/15/2014

    " I think all of us remember the Ripley's Believe it or Nots about Hetty Green--a terrible crazy women so stingy she let her son get gangrene rather than pay for a doctor. Wallach, the very sympathetic biographer of Gertrude Bell, another iconoclastic woman of the late 19th century, explains well how Green's background in a world where possession of money meant worthiness as a human being (to society at large, but particularly to her domineering father) shaped her as a shrewd investor who was plagued by ingrate relatives, a dissolute and money(hers)-squandering husband, ungrateful children and who witnessed enough financial reversals to be reasonably afraid of what would happen if she wasn't extremely careful. That it veered into psychosis was both a tragedy and a fairly predictable product of life at the pinnacle of the Gilded Age. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Susan | 1/11/2014

    " Somewhat dry, but Hetty Green is a woman whose story is worth reading. She was far ahead of her time in wanting to be financially independent, and she was far better with money than her husband was! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Louise | 1/5/2014

    " I enjoyed reading this and it may be closer to a 3.5 but it was somewhat repetitive. It also focused a lot on the time that Hetty Green lived in and the famous people that lived then and less on Hetty Green than I would have expected. "

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