November 21, 1834

"Richest Woman in America" Born in New Bedford


On this day in 1834, the wealthiest whaling family in New Bedford celebrated the birth of their only daughter. This little girl would grow up to be the richest — and, according to legend, the most miserly — woman in America. Through shrewd investing, Hetty Robinson Green parlayed a $100,000 inheritance into one of the largest fortunes in the United States. Stories of her eccentricities abound. She lived in low-rent tenements in New Jersey and moved frequently to avoid property taxes. She ate 15-cent lunches and always used public transport. By the time she died in 1916, Hetty Green had a net worth of $100,000,000 — more than 2.5 billion in today's dollars. She accomplished this at a time when American women could not yet vote.

Related Moments