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Extended Audio Sample The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age Audiobook, 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: September 2012 ISBN: 9780449806722
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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 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. 
   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

  • This autumn has seen a slew of new books about the economy and the new plutocracy. None is as absorbing as The Richest Woman in America, which takes us through America’s repeated booms and busts through the eyes and coolheaded example of the remarkable financial genius Hetty Green ... Long after one has finished reading, what shines forth is the wisdom of an obscure but admirable woman who said and did what she thought. As if to inspire others, a series of Green’s bon mots conclude the book, which should be mandatory reading for investors embarking on refiguring their 401(k)s. The Washington Times
  • It’s always fun to return to the story of Green, who died in 1916 with a fortune of $100 million. That would make her a billionaire twice over in today’s dollars. Incredibly, it was money she earned through savvy and aggressive investing. Green, who was notoriously frugal and never shied away from a fight, earned a reputation as the mean, crazy lady of Wall Street. But Wallach presents Green’s charitable self, a woman who could be wise and witty, warm as well. And generous, too. New York Daily News
  • "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
  • "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. The Daily Beast
  • 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. The Wall Street Journal
  • Aspiring investors might want to memorize Hetty Green's words as they do Warren Buffett’s ... In telling Green’s story, Wallach also tells the story of America’s repeated busts and booms in a way that seems very relevant right now. The Washington Post
  • 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
  • An enjoyable account ... Wallach successfully portrays a compelling woman who kept her eyes on the glittering financial prize, using a commonsense philosophy regarding real estate and investment throughout the 19th century’s Wall Street roller-coaster. Publishers Weekly
  • Dubbed 'the Witch of Wall Street,' this nineteenth-century capitalist parlayed her initial inheritance into a substantial fortune, famously eschewing the glamour and the excesses of the Gilded Age. Despite her shrewd investment acumen, her remarkable achievements were often overshadowed by her well-publicized eccentricities. As the mythology of her gratuitous frugality swelled, she was gleefully caricatured in newspapers and magazines as a miser of epic proportions. While she was a popular-culture icon for many of the wrong reasons, most journalists failed to acknowledge her blistering business savvy and the tremendous power she wielded in a male-dominated arena. Wallach does Green long-overdue service by providing an evenhanded account of her professional accomplishments and her personal peculiarities. Booklist
  • Excellent. The New York Times Book Review
  • “Outstanding. The Dallas Morning News
  • A richly textured biography ... Wallach’s account is both close-grained and broad ... A vivid, almost novelistic narrative. Chicago Tribune
  • This colorful, romantic biography ... vividly evokes a memorable personality. Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “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 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 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 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 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. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Joyce | 1/4/2014

    " Very interesting. Strong driven woman. Sad she's not in the history books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jennifer | 12/25/2013

    " I really enjoyed this book. Perfect and timely for today's world "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Walter Herrick | 12/14/2013

    " I bought this as an audible book, and because I really like the narrator...I really liked the book. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Clara | 12/7/2013

    " I had hoped to learn more about Hetty the person, but most of the book is about the gilded age -- sort of a mishmash of facts (?) about railroads, financial booms & busts, real estate, even the Wizard of Oz, but very little new about Hetty, except some about her final years. I was disappointed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff | 11/24/2013

    " Good historical look at New York and surrounding communities. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sam Levine | 11/24/2013

    " The author did a good job of putting the little we know about Green in a larger context, though the lack of primary sources about Green's life left for a lot of extrapolation and was a bit of a drawback. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Allison Garza | 10/22/2013

    " I really liked this book, what an interesting woman. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin Nenninger | 9/9/2013

    " Hetty Green's life was a tough one. It tells you that money does not ever, ever buy happiness or health. Not the most exciting writing style. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kayne | 7/17/2013

    " Great story. Strong minded woman who held her own against society. Very likeable bio. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Katie | 5/27/2013

    " Lots of history on the American Economy. Would have likes more information on her private life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deborah Bull | 2/28/2013

    " The telling of her story is done in a little more stilted style than I like but overall a very interesting biography. It actually helped my understanding of what causes economic depressions and how we come out of them. Americans should read this book! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Maida | 2/7/2013

    " Hetty Green was far from the happiest woman in America. But I enjoyed the history of American finance in the 19th century. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Cathy | 1/6/2013

    " I'm glad I found out she wasn't just the miserly old woman I had heard about. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kyla | 10/8/2012

    " Though I thought it was going to be more centered around her private life, it was a really good book filled with an immense amount of details and facts about Hetty Green's life "

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About the Author

Janet Wallach is the author of nearly ten books, including Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell and three books on the Middle East (co-authored with her husband). She divides her time between New York City and Connecticut.

About the Narrator

Coleen Marlo is an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator who has been nominated for an Audie Award twice, winning in 2011. She has been awarded three Listen-Up Awards from Publishers Weekly, an AudioFile Audiobook of the Year Award in 2011, and was named Audiobook Narrator of the Year for 2010 by Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the prestigious Actors Studio and taught acting for ten years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. Marlo is a proud founding member of Deyan Institute of Voice Artistry and Technology.