Genre: Nonfiction; Author: Charles Slack; Publisher: Ecco Press

If remembered at all, 19th-century millionaire Hetty Green is credited with being overly litigious, stingy, stubborn, and cruel. Certainly she was a complicated heiress (she harassed her ailing aunt Sylvia to rewrite her will in Green’s favor) who multiplied her inheritance by savvy investments in stocks, bonds, rail-roads, and real estate. Vehemently opposed to ostentation, she lived in Brooklyn and Hoboken instead of owning a sprawling Manhattan home and gave her children only cheap, unfitted clothing. Still, there is no doubt Green suffered from the sexism of the day. ”Nobody ever saw her with a dress which was not severely plain,” chided the Brooklyn Eagle, which probably never devoted much ink to, say, evaluating Andrew Carnegie’s wardrobe. Despite extensive research, Charles Slack stints on Green’s moments of humanity in Hetty, as when she read the financial pages to her poor-sighted father. Perhaps there were too few to find.

Originally posted November 19 2004 — 12:00 AM EST

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