Archive for November, 2012

The “Witch of Wall Street”

November 21st, 2012 by admin

Today, November 21 is the birthday of  Hetty Green, the first woman to make a fortune on Wall Street.  She was born in 1834 in Bedford Massachusetts to a family of Quakers who owned a large whaling fleet and also profited from the China trade.

Popularly known as the “Witch of Wall Street,” due to her penny-pinching ways, people rumored that she only owned one dress. It’s also rumored that she ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that she spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts that she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap.  She was well versed in finance from the age of 6, reading the financial pages to her. When she was 13, Hetty became the family bookkeeper. She was apparently pretty ruthless. When hearing of her Aunt Sylvia’s will contributing 2 million dollars to charity, Hetty challenged and even forged an earlier will to keep the money in the family and in her pocket.

When her father died in 1864, she inherited $7.5 million ($107 million in 2010 adjusted for inflation) in liquid assets, against the objections of most of her family, and invested in Civil War war bonds.

She was a successful businesswoman who dealt mainly in real estate, invested in railroads, and lent money. The City of New York came to Hetty in need of loans to keep the city afloat on several occasions, most particularly during the Panic of 1907;  she wrote a check for $1.1 million and took her payment in short-term revenue bonds. Keenly detail-oriented, she would travel thousands of miles – alone, in an era when few women would dare travel unescorted – to collect a debt of a few hundred dollars.

What interests us is this quote:

” The thing I am proudest of in my whole business life is that I do not take, that I never took in all my life, and never, n ever! will take, one single penny more than 6% on any loan or any contract.”









Frugal to the bone it seems she never sought more than she needed and still became the richest woman on Wall Street. If only her teachings had stuck.  If only a few other millionaires would act with even a modicum of Hetty’s frugality.

Happy Birthday Hetty. You witch.

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Do You Dare Vote?

November 5th, 2012 by admin

On this day, November 5, in 1872, Susan B. Anthony left her home in New York to cast a ballot for President Grant in the presidential elections, in full defiance of the unwritten law forbidding women to vote. Two weeks later, as expected, Anthony was taken from her home and arrested for voting without a right. The $100 fine she was ordered to pay was never collected, and women all over the country were energized by Anthony’s brave act.

And according to her letter reprinted here:

On election day in 1872, after casting her ballots, Susan B. Anthony wrote this letter to her good friend and collaborator, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, describing the day’s events. As Anthony explains, the urge to vote affected many more women in Rochester than the fourteen voters in the Eighth Ward. Officials in other wards made different decisions: some refused to register the women, some registered them but then refused to accept their ballots. At this point, Anthony had no hint that she would be arrested for her actions. Indeed, her mind was busy imagining ways that the women who failed to vote could use the courts to sue for their rights, as women in Washington, D.C., had done in 1871 and as Virginia Minor did in St. Louis in 1872.

She voted Republican.  Ah, how times have changed!  I am positive that she never would have dreamed that the GOP would become the woman demeaning party that it is today.  It is your right to vote. It is your voice. Use it. Do not be refused. Do not give up. Do not accept any stinky new voter ID laws. If you are a citizen and you are in line to vote, you have that opportunity. Stay in line!

Rochester Nov. 5th 1872—

Dear Mrs Stanton Well I have been & gone & done it!!

—positively voted the Republican ticket—strait—this A.M. at 7 Oclock—& swore my vote in at that—was registered on Friday & 15 other women followed suit in this ward—then in Sunday others some 20 or thirty other women tried to register, but all save two were refused

—    all my three sisters voted—Rhoda De Garmo—too— Amy Post was rejected—& she will immediately institute bring action against the registrars—then another woman who was registered but vote refused will bring action for that— Similar to the Washington action—& Hon Henry R. Selden will be our Counsel—he has read up the law & all of our arguments & is satisfied that we are right & ditto the Old Judge Selden—his elder brother— So we are in for a fine agitation in Rochester on the question—

—     I hope the morning’s telegrams will tell of many women all over the country trying to vote— It is splendid that without any concert of action so many should have moved here so impromptu— [Anthony here changed subject for a paragraph.] Haven’t we wedged ourselves into the work pretty fairly & fully—& now that the Repubs have taken our votes—for it is the Repub. members of the Board—

—    The Democratic paper is out against us strong—& that scared the Dem’s on the registry board— How I wish you were here to write up the funny things said & done— Rhoda De Garmo told them she wouldn’t swear nor affirm “—but would tell them the truth[”]—& they accepted that When the Dems said my vote should not go in the box—one repub said to the other—What do you say Marsh?— I say put it in!— so do I, said Jones—and “We’ll fight it out on this line if it takes all winter.”—

—    Mary Hallowell was just here— She & Mrs Willis tried to register but were refused—also Mrs Mann the Unitarian Minister’s wife—& Mary Curtiss,—Catharine Stebbins sister— Not a jeer not a word—not a look—disrespectful has met a single woman— If only now all the Woman Suffrage Women would work to this end, of enforcing the existing constitution—supremacy of national law over state law—what strides we might make this very winter—But—

—    I’m awful tired—for five days I have been on the constant run—but to splendid purpose—so all right—I hope you voted too— affectionately—

—     Susan B. Anthony







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