"she bought low, sold high, and kept her calm through every panic."
September 8, 2020 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Hetty Green is often learned about in trivia books as the exceptionally wealthy woman who was singularly miserly. While she was thrifty to a fault, she also bailed out New York City after the financial panic of 1907, was a brilliant and ruthless financier and shrewd investor, and led a very singular life in Hoboken, New Jersey, and Bellows Falls, Vermont. When both her children died without having any children of their own, her massive fortune was scattered to hundreds of distant relatives, charities and educational institutions; none of it to the "reputation management" we're so used to seeing from other ultra-capitalists of the time.

See also
- Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon
- The witch of Wall Street : Hetty Green (borrowable on the Internet Archive)
- reviews of The Hetty Green Motel in her former hometown
- A few photos of Hetty Green and her home from her time in Vermont
- a South Coast (MA) perspective on her life (her father made his money in whaling and she was born in New Bedford)
posted by jessamyn (5 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
There's also this article from the New England Historical Society, which says that according to her son she was quite generous in charity, just extremely quiet about it.
posted by tavella at 3:06 PM on September 8, 2020 [5 favorites]

That was a great article tavella and drives home that same point. She didn't care about her image and so she wound up getting basically tarnished by whatever people wanted to toss at her. And she did all of this before she was allowed to legally vote!
posted by jessamyn at 7:22 PM on September 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

Thank you Jessamyn!!! Hetty has always fascinated me even though I knew very little about her. Donation made, but about to make another.

I am an equities and derivatives trader that is also a history buff. I have read about some of the great (or not so great) speculators of the early 20th century. I have read tons of books on Jesse Livermore, Bernard Baruch and all about the Crash of '29. I don't remember exactly how I heard about Hetty Green, but I was able to get a basic understanding of her life. Because she cared so little about her legacy and there really was nobody to defend her legacy, information about her is sparse and at times contradictory. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your finding all these sources. (Also thanks to tavella for their article.)

Ms. Green was in many ways a leader of women's rights and of a women's place in a world (Wall Street/finance/NYC/etc.) that before her had never seen the likes of a woman did not accept what society expected of her and how she should act. She did her own thing in her own way and did not care what society thought. She was a contradiction in many ways. She was hugely wealthy yet lived a mizer's life. She was the first woman to do a lot of things, she would not ever be denied anything because she was a women yet she limited her daughter and she herself was a stay at home mom until her husband screwed up the fortune she had built. She went out and rebuilt the fortune. She also refused the opportunity to advocate for a woman's right to vote.

Because she was so private and secretive and did not care a lick what others thought about her, most of the information about her came from speculation about her. I think people want to fill a vacuum with their own narrative. Usually, it is my experience, that narrative is negative. People are afraid of the unknown or the unconventional.

I wish more people knew about her today. I am not sure if she should be considered a role model, but she certainly was a pioneer, an inadvertent or unintentional pioneer, on Wall Street, in women's rights/roles and wanted no publicity for the good deeds and charity she did.

When it came to trading and speculating in the markets, she outdid almost all the males she faced. She had a discipline and nerves of steel that can only be found in a small small group of influential traders.
posted by AugustWest at 10:25 PM on September 8, 2020 [7 favorites]

Stuff You Missed in History Class did a (podcast) episode on Green years back.
posted by wreckingball at 7:21 AM on September 9, 2020

Mod note: Please note this is a post made as part of MeFi's Fundraising Month. Read more about this project here.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2020

« Older "Music Theory"? Or the harmonic style of 18th C...   |   These Books Do Not Exist and Never Did Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments