Hetty Green


Biography of Hetty Green

Hetty Green (née Robinson), nicknamed "The Witch of Wall Street" (November 21, 1834 – July 3, 1916), was an American businesswoman, remarkable for her frugality during the Gilded Age, as well as for being the first American woman to make a substantial impact on Wall Street.

She was born Henrietta Howland Robinson in New Bedford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Edward Mott Robinson and Abby Howland. Her family were Quakers who owned a large whaling fleet and also profited from the China trade. At the age of two, she was living with her grandfather, Gideon Howland. Because of his influence and that of her father, and possibly because her mother was constantly ill, she took to her father's side and was reading financial papers to him by the age of six. When she was 13, Hetty became the family bookkeeper. At the age of 15, she went to a school in Boston.

When her father died in 1864, she inherited $7.5 million ($107 million in 2010 adjusted for inflation) in liquid assets, against the objections of most of her family, and invested in Civil War war bonds.

When she heard that her aunt Sylvia had willed most of her $2 million to charity, she challenged the will's validity in court by producing an earlier will which allegedly left the entire estate to Hetty, and included a clause invalidating any subsequent wills. The case, Robinson v. Mandell, which is notable as an early example of the forensic use of mathematics, was ultimately decided against Hetty after the court ruled that the clause invalidating future wills, and Sylvia's signature to it, were forgeries.

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