Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America’s First Female Tycoon by Charles Slack (Nicole Schlinger Book Review)
Have you heard of Hetty Green?
Well — I certainly had never heard of her before reading this book. You can insert your indictment of government schools in America right here.
In an age when women were not even allowed to vote … Hetty Green was called by JP Morgan to a meeting of the country’s biggest business tycoons in the wake of the 1907 stock market crash.
If she were alive today … she’d belong in the ranks of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. And you would know her name.
Hetty Green grew up in a dysfunctional family. Her father married her mother to gain access into a family business that had no male heirs. Her mother was frail, and failed to produce a mail heir herself. And her aunt, with whom she lived while growing up, was also ill and unable to care for her properly.
Hetty learned early not to succumb to convention. To be a women in that era was inherently an unsafe and financially insecure position. Hetty would not accept that fate.
While some of what she did in those early days was unsavory to say the least, few among you could say you wouldn’t do the same under similar circumstances.
The real magic of Hetty Green begins after those early days in Massachusetts. When she finally gets to New York, she turns the inheritance she fought for into one of the largest and greatest fortunes of all times.
She bought real estate, stocks, bonds. And she never lost that spirit to fight tooth and nail for every dollar.
And yes … she was cheap. Some of her frugality was hilarious, some was tragic. All of it, however, understandable.
While she was a trailblazer, she was not necessarily a role model.
Overall, the author treated Hetty Green fairly, even kindly.
If you want a truer, richer picture of American history in the Gilded Age … you should know Hetty Green and you should read this book.