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Hetty Green: “The Wicked Witch of Wall Street”

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Hetty Green, often dubbed the most stingy woman in history, amassed a wealth estimated at more than $2.3 billion.

Born in America in 1835 as the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, she inherited a fortune of $7.5 million from her father. At the age of twenty-one, Hetty moved to New York to invest her money in Wall Street, earning the notorious nickname “The Wicked Witch of Wall Street.”

Despite marrying a fellow millionaire, Hetty’s frugality knew no bounds. She lived on leftover cakes and broken biscuits from grocery stores, and relentlessly argued to secure a free bone for her dog every day. Her extreme penny-pinching extended to her personal life, where she reportedly wore the same underpants from the age of sixteen until her death and refused to spend money on hot water or new clothes, favoring a single black dress until it was entirely worn out. Her diet was infamously sparse, subsisting on a two-cent pie.

Hetty’s miserliness had severe consequences for her family. When her son broke his leg, she delayed treatment in search of free medical care, leading to the amputation of his leg. Her obsessive thriftiness ultimately contributed to her death in 1916 at the age of 81 in New York City. Hetty suffered a fatal stroke during a quarrel with her maid over a request for a salary increase.

Hetty Green’s legacy of extreme frugality earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “most stingy person in the world.” However, her children did not follow in her miserly footsteps.

Instead, they embraced generosity, with her daughter using part of the inherited fortune to build a free hospital.

Hetty Green’s life remains a stark contrast between incredible wealth and extreme parsimony, capturing the fascination and astonishment of all who hear her story.

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