November 21, 1834

"Richest Woman in America" Born in New Bedford

Region:
Southeast

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