Hetty Green Witch of Wall Street

by wcascade40

Hetty Green was a rich, eccentric New York City miser.


Hetty Green was born into a wealthy whaling family, in 1835 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Hetty’s mother was from a whaling and trading company and her father was a partner in the family firm.  She was raised in New England and imbued with Quaker values, included the virtue of thriftiness. The family was wealthy but lived frugally.


Since Hetty Robinson was an only child, she was trained by her father in the ways of business. She could easily read financial reports and study investments. Her father also taught her thriftiness, he encouraged her when Hetty dressed in rags. Even though Hetty grew up to be rather pretty, her cheap clothing and haphazard hygiene prevented her from being considered a beauty. Which was fine with Hetty, she didn’t trust men, fearing they would steal her wealth.


It wasn’t until she was 32 that Hetty married Edward H. Green, who was wealthy himself. He overlooked his wife’s frugality and they had a happy marriage, which produced a son and daughter. In 1885, Mr. Green lost all his money and Hetty promptly left him, since he would now be a burden and expense to her.


When Hetty was 30, her father had died and left her a million dollars and the interest from millions invested. The principal from those millions would go to her children. She also inherited half of an aunt’s large estate. Even though she was quite wealthy, Hetty was outraged that she didn’t get the entire estate. She spent years trying to get the other half of the estate.


Hetty had 3 obsessions: accumulating money, not spending money and fear of being killed or cheated for her money.  Her motto was “ to buy cheap and sell dear, act with thrift and shrewdness and be persistent.” Hetty invested in real estate and railroad and soon doubled her fortune.


It must be said that Hetty was honest in business and didn’t try to cheat people. She made money by shrewd investments. Hetty continually reinvested her profits and spent as little as possible on maintaining herself or her family. She wore the same dress over and over, rarely cleaning it, and only bought a new (used) dress when the old one was falling apart.

Hetty lived in New York City, in cheap hotels, but moved continuously to evade the tax assessor. Her children were forced to live her frugal existence. Her son, Ted, paid the price for this. His knee was injured while sledding and Hetty didn’t want to pay for a doctor. She tried to care for him herself, then she took him to a free clinic, where the doctors recognized her and asked for payment. She refused, Ted went without effective treatment and the leg was eventually amputated.

Hetty had a great fear of being killed for her money. That was another reason why she moved often. She also carried a gun in her large handbag, along with all her financial documents. Hetty had no office, she didn’t want to pay for one, so she demanded of her bankers that they give her free space on bank premises. There she transacted business, using her bag and special pockets in her petticoats to store money and documents.


In 1902, Hetty’s husband died and Hetty started dressing exclusively in black, this lead to her being called “The Witch of Wall Street”. The black dresses were rarely watched and eventually started to turn green from dirt and grime. Hetty Green was an unforgettable site.


Hetty’s children grew up in unnecessary poverty and deprivation.  They lived in cheap hotels, wore rags and lived on stale bread and the cheapest food. Her daughter eventually married well and when she married, both children split an inheritance of over 100 million dollars. They got more enjoyment out of the money than Hetty ever did. Ted spent his money on yachts, gold chamber pots and underage girls. Hetty must have been rolling in her grave.

The Richest Woman in America: Hetty G...
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Updated: 06/29/2011, wcascade40
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karenlkay on 06/30/2011

What a tragic story! So sad she never learned the value of love....

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