Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: Richest Woman in America




"After your business is over you may take your colleague to dinner and the theater, or allow him to take you, but wait until the transaction has been closed and the money paid."

These are the words of Hetty Green, the Richest woman in the world.

I bought this book on recommendation of a literary event I went to last year. I am a history buff, and thought this would be a interesting read. I never heard about Hetty Green.

  I was disappointed. I expected to learn about her personal side.  I got a feeling that the author could not get into her head, and she did not understand Hetty. 

This book is non-fiction about the life of Hetty Green. The richest woman in America. She lived during the Gilded Age. Hetty Green was born in New Bedford, Mass, in a whaling town. Her family were from the Quaker faith, and very wealthy. Her father was a financier,dabbled in everything to make money. 

She did not have a good upbringing as a child.  Her father ruled the roost, and kept a upper hand with her mother. Her father did not pay much attention to Hetty. Hetty tried to please her father, and even until his death he was very critical and did not trust her business sense. 

 Later on when Hetty was old enough to appreciate finance, they connected. When she talked business and money with her father. He  would pay attention to her.  Hetty felt love only with the connection of money. 

When her Father,Edward Mott Robinson, and Aunt Sylvie  passed away she expected millions would be left to her. But, instead there was simulations to the will. She challenged her Aunt's will and to this day it is remembered in the courts. 

Hetty was a very head strong, and independent woman. She did not care about high society, and frivolous things. Such as clothes, makeup, and jewelry.

Hetty had a good head on her shoulders. She learned not to panic. Where she made her money was the financial panics. She made her money with her husband, Edward Henry Green with the rail roads, and bonds, and real estate.  She had a better business sense than her husband. 




I was hoping to read about the human side of Hetty. But, there was not much written about it. It seemed superficial.  There were glimpses and speculation. But nothing definitive. One minute she spends wisely, the next she spends frivolously. The book seems to contradict itself constantly. 

What I found interesting is she held on to her children, especially her daughter, Slyvie for dear life. She controlled both her children. When her daughter married at 38 she had a hard time letting go. She did not believe in Women's Suffrage. 

The other thing I found interesting. Mistakes financially are forever made over and over again. Reading the book, and the mistakes made in the Gilded Age were again make a couple of years ago, in 2012! Overspending, it never changes!! You compare overextending of the railroads, to what happened a few years ago. It is the same mistakes. 

I am not interested in finance, and the money end of things. That may be why I did not love this book. There were parts that captivated me and others that were dull. I liked the personal side of Hetty. But when the discussion of business, and money was in the book I was not interested. I just make my money and spend it. Not one of my favorite reads, I did not care about Hetty or her life.

 It reminded me of Christmas Carol, but instead of a man, substitute a woman.  She did not sound like a happy woman. But, she had her children that cared about her.

You can also read a article from USA Today here

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