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July 18th , 2024

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THE STINGIEST WOMAN IN HISTORY: HOW HETTY GREEN AMASSED A $2.3 BILLION FORTUNE

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Hetty Green, often remembered as the most miserly woman in history, was born in America in 1835 to a prosperous family. She was the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, and upon his death, she inherited a fortune estimated at $7.5 million. This substantial inheritance laid the foundation for what would become a life defined by both extraordinary financial acumen and extreme frugality.

At the age of twenty-one, Hetty moved to New York City with the ambition of multiplying her wealth through investments in Wall Street. Her shrewd financial strategies and relentless pursuit of profit earned her the nickname “The Wicked Witch of Wall Street.” Despite her vast fortune, Hetty's lifestyle was remarkably austere. She was known to live off leftover cakes and broken biscuits from grocery stores, and she famously argued daily to get a free bone for her dog.


Hetty's frugality extended to every aspect of her life. She wore the same black dress until it was completely worn out and reportedly subsisted on a pie that cost only two cents. Hetty’s thriftiness was so extreme that she never spent money on hot water and continued to use underpants she had sewn herself at the age of sixteen until her death.

Her stinginess had dire consequences for her family. When her son broke his leg, Hetty's refusal to pay for medical treatment led to a delay in care, ultimately resulting in the amputation of his leg. This incident, among others, cemented her reputation as the epitome of miserliness.

Despite her miserly ways, Hetty's financial success was undeniable. Her wealth, meticulously invested, grew to an estimated $2.3 billion by today’s standards. Hetty Green's life came to an end in 1916 at the age of 81, following a stroke triggered by an argument with her maid over a pay raise. She died in New York City, leaving behind an immense fortune and a legacy marked by her entry into the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most stingy person in the world.”


In stark contrast to their mother, Hetty's children were known for their generosity. Her daughter, Sylvia Green, used part of her inherited wealth to build a free hospital, reflecting a complete departure from Hetty’s extreme frugality. Hetty Green's story remains a fascinating example of the interplay between wealth and personality, illustrating how one woman's extreme thrift helped her amass a legendary fortune while shaping her legacy as history’s most notorious miser.

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Nicholas Baiden

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