Hetty Green was a famously shrewd investor on Wall Street when women still had to sneak “a growler” at the back door of a saloon. Having been to enough bars in my early 20’s to witness drunken women collapsed in dark corners with their skirts up I sometimes wonder if bringing the tradition of women drinking at home back might be a good idea. 😉
Hetty was a Quaker so maybe she didn’t drink. She was miserly, too, so probably wouldn’t have paid for a martini (invented during the Gold Rush, btw).
When her father died he left Hetty a fortune to invest. She’d opened her first bank account at age 8 and read to her blind grandfather all the financial news of the day so was well prepared for taking her place among the Wall Street warlocks of the day. Her dying father suggested that he’d been poisoned by someone seeking his fortune and that Hetty should expect the same.
What can we say about misers?
“Hetty Green’s stinginess was legendary. She was said never to turn on the heat or use hot water. She wore one old black dress and undergarments that she changed only after they had been worn out, did not wash her hands and rode in an old carriage. She ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that Green spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts that she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap.” WIKIPEDIA
Eccentric men of history abound and some probably didn’t wash their hands. I fear women sometimes don’t like being harshly judged as men often are. My sons recover more quickly from dressings down by rivals and friends than my daughters do. It seems Hetty didn’t suffer fools lightly, but modern women tend to take real offense at being called horrible names. It’s as if they feel they should be treated better than men somehow.
Hetty made sure when marrying to get her spendthrift investor husband to renounce all rights to her fortune. Being such a cool-headed woman of finance who bought low and sold high, who kept tons of cash on hand to swoop in during panics to buy up other people’s heartache and who was even called upon by the city of New York to lend money to keep the metropolis afloat more than once, I wonder what the attraction to her husband was. I suspect she was drawn to his lack of control for a time. The marriage failed.
But as people say, the marriage wasn’t a complete failure. They raised two beautiful children (don’t you kind of hate that saying? I’d still prefer not to have had a failed marriage).
Hetty’s son broke his leg as a child. Hetty was rich but wanted to save money so she brought Ned to a free clinic for the poor. They screwed up his leg and after much pain and suffering (on the part of poor Ned) his leg was amputated.
An independent woman making wise investments on Wall Street is admirable (if you don’t mind preying on weakness, greed and stupidity in some cases), but being such a cheapskate with your own children seems kind of witchy to me.
What do you think? Is calling a woman a witch going too far? Where is the line drawn between cheap and sensible?
MORE ABOUT HETTY GREEN