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The Witch of Wall Street

The Witch of Wall Street


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Who is the Witch of Wall Street? Henrietta “Hetty” Green was born in 1834 to an already wealthy Massachusetts family of Quakers. Hetty’s family made their money from whaling fleets and shipping interests and she was quick to learn from her familial knowledge. Her grandfather Gideon Howland discussed financial matters with her and encouraged her to read financial papers as a child. By the age of 13, she had taken over accounting for their lucrative family business. 

In a time where women weren’t legally seen as individual people, Hetty was overseeing huge real estate deals, buying and selling railroads, and even helping others with their financial failings. Her real estate investment strategy was to buy property cheap when nobody wanted it, hold onto it until there was interest, and then sell high. Being a woman with such financial literacy and skill, Hetty made some enemies of her colleagues. Collis P Huntingdon - the man who built the Central Pacific Railroad - called her “nothing more than a glorified pawnbroker”.

Making enemies out of men was no issue to Hetty. More interested in money than marriage, Hetty sold the wardrobe of trendy fashions bought for her to meet a suitable match and used the money to buy government bonds instead. 

However, Hetty did end up marrying a man named Edward Green but she was sure to ask him to renounce all rights to her increasing wealth, a request that was unusual for a woman to make at the time. It was her husband (or really, his death) that earned Hetty the nickname “The Witch of Wall Street”. After Edward died young, Hetty wore mourning attire for the majority of her life. These black dresses and her unpopularity among her peers resulted in the nickname. 

In 1905 Hetty was featured on a published list named "The World's Richest Two Dozen", so she would definitely have a Forbes cover had she been alive today. 

Hetty died in 1916 with an estimated $100 million in liquid assets, and much more in land and other investments. Her way of investing has even led to the innovation of value investing. Whether she was, or wasn’t, a witch, Hetty Green definitely laid a path for women in finances like no one had done before.

Further Reading:
The Peculiar Story of the Witch of Wall Street

Hetty Green: The Witch of Wall Street

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