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The Witch of Wall Street: The Astonishing Stinginess and Fortune of Hetty Green

Hetty Green, often cited as the stingiest woman in history by the Guinness Book of Records, amassed a fortune estimated at $2.3 billion.

Born in 1835 as the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, Green demonstrated an early passion for finance, opening her first bank account at six and avidly reading economic pages in daily newspapers. At 21, she inherited $7.5 million from her father and moved to New York to invest in Wall Street, earning the nickname “The Witch of Wall Street.”

Despite marrying a multimillionaire, Green’s extreme frugality defined her life. She lived on leftover cookies and crackers, wore the same black dress until it was worn out, and reputedly never used hot water. Her most notorious act was delaying medical treatment for her son’s broken leg, insisting on free care, which led to its eventual amputation.

Green’s miserly ways extended to daily life; she argued for a free bone for her dog every day and lived on a two-cent pie. She died in 1916 at the age of 81 in New York City from a stroke triggered by a quarrel with her maid over a salary increase. Despite her immense wealth, Green’s legacy of parsimony did not pass to her children. Her daughter used her inheritance generously, even building a free hospital with her share of Green’s fortune.