Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon (Paperback)

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Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon By Charles Slack Cover Image

Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon (Paperback)

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Slack looks beyond the lore and historical prejudices to reveal the real Hetty Green, known as the "Witch of Wall Street," who dueled with the giants of the Gilded Age and amassed a fortune of $100 million before women had the right to vote. A full century before Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Madonna became icons, generations before women swept through Wall Street, and decades before they even had the right to vote, there was Hetty Green, America's richest woman, who stood alone among the roguish giants of the Gilded Age as the first lady of capitalism and is remembered as the Witch of Wall Street. At the time of her death in 1916, Hetty Green's personal fortune was estimated at $100 million ($1.6 billion today), and the financial empire she built on real estate and railroads rivaled that of Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and some of the nation's biggest banks. Today, Hetty Green ranks near the top of America's list of greatest financiers, in company with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and billionaire-investor Warren Buffett. But in history books she has remained merely a footnote, a miser and an eccentric, whose character flaws and personal choices unjustly overshadowed her remarkable accomplishments on the fierce battlefield of American industry and commerce. In Hetty, Charles Slack reexamines the life, work, and conflicted legacy of the exceptionally resourceful, ruthless, and inimitable woman who turned a comfortable inheritance into a fortune through instinct, courage, cunning, greed, and determination to succeed at a man's game on her own terms: from her childhood in the Quaker community of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where she learned about business by reading financial papers to her father, to the battle over her inheritance that was one of the most controversial legal cases of her time; from her collisions with railroad magnate Collis Huntington to her rescue of New York City from financial ruin. Looking well beyond the lore and historical prejudices, Charles Slack presents a full portrait of a true American original, a female Citizen Kane who, having turned away from the conventions of her time, as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a mogul, led a life of a different sort, with occasionally tragic results, becoming both a hero and a victim of her era. Above all, it is a story of an uncompromising, larger-than-life, flawed woman who ruled a vast financial empire but was known, simply, as Hetty. Harper Collins

— From Local History

“This book is more than the story of an eccentric, driven woman; it is a window on the country between the Civil War and World War I when great fortunes were made—even by a woman.”—USA Today

A biography of Hetty Green, known as the “Witch of Wall Street,” who dueled with the giants of the Gilded Age and amassed a fortune of $100 million before women had the right to vote

A full century before Martha Stewart, Oprah, and Madonna became icons of female entrepreneurship, there was Hetty Green, America’s richest woman, who stood alone among the roguish giants of the Gilded Age as the first lady of capitalism. While derided as “a witch of Wall Street” in her lifetime, today, Hetty ranks near the top of America’s list of greatest financiers.

She was a female Citizen Kane and America’s richest woman. She bought and sold real estate and railroads, fought hard and sometimes dirty, cornered markets, and amassed cash reserves to rival the great banks. She was the lone woman among a gallery of Gilded Age rogue heroes-Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and the Vanderbilts.

This new biography looks well beyond the lore and historical prejudices to present a brilliant, ruthless entrepreneur vastly ahead of her time, a financial empire ruler known simply as Hetty.

Charles Slack is the author of Noble Obsession: Charles Goodyear, Thomas Hancock, and the Race to Unlock the Greatest Industrial Secret of the Nineteenth Century, named one of the New York Public Library's twenty-five "Books to Remember" for 2002, and Blue Fairways: Three Months, Sixty Courses, No Mulligans. His writing has appeared in many national magazines. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Barbara, and their daughters, Natalie and Caroline.

“In his new book Charles Slack gives us, at long last, a truly rounded portrait of one of the most fascinating characters in Wall Street, or, indeed, American history. In doing so, he rescues from caricature the uniquely gifted and uniquely sad Hetty Green.” — John Steele Gordon, author of The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street As a World Power, 1653-2000

“Charles Slack has written an enormously readable book about a brilliant, avaricious, and complicated woman who accumulated vast wealth and bested some of Wall Street’s most notable players. The story of her life is a fascinating snapshot of how greed and ambition provided unique success in an era not known for female financial accomplishment.” — Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the SEC, and bestselling author of Take on the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don't Want You to Know

“Written with grace and authority, Hetty—Charles Slack’s follow-up to the splendid Noble Obsession—further establishes Slack not just as a worthy chronicler of the roots of American business, but also of the American story itself—and of the fascinating, unquenchable men and women who people it.” — Dean King, author of Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

“Want to be a tycoon? Hetty, Charles Slack’s riveting history of America’s pioneering billionairess, tells you how. As a cautionary tale of Hetty Green’s iconoclastic, emotionally pinched life, and an inspiring one of an early 20th century woman tougher than any man, Hetty is a must read for all aspiring moguls.” — Regina E. Herzlinger, Harvard Business School

“[An] instructive account…. Slack offers an exemplary retelling for a new generation.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Slack concentrates on telling a good story and telling it well.... [An] entertaining biography.” — Publishers Weekly

“A wonderfully detailed new biography.” — Forbes

“[A] page-turning portrait of an important and complicated woman.” — Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[A] nuanced portrait.” — Newsweek

“A fascinating book.” — New York Post

“This book is more than the story of an eccentric, driven woman; it is a window on the country between the Civil War and World War I when great fortunes were made — even by a woman.” — USA Today

“During her lifetime, journalists were quick to describe her as the ‘least happy woman in New York,’ but Slack appears to get it right. ‘In the end,’ he says, ‘her principle crime seems to have been that the rules she chose to live by were her own rather than society’s.’...Which practically makes you want to say, ‘You go, girl!’” — New York Times Book Review

“Fascinating.” — Tucson Citizen

“A lively and engaging portrait of the 19th century’s Martha Stewart…. This detailed account will no doubt delight readers of 19th-century financial history and anyone who likes a good story.” — Library Journal