On sale September 25th, a captivating biography of America’s first female tycoon, Hetty Green, the iconoclast who forged one of the greatest fortunes of her time.

No woman in the Gilded Age made as much money as Hetty Green. At the time of her death in 1916, she was worth at least 100 million dollars, equal to more than 2 billion dollars today. A strong believer in women being financially independent, she offered valuable lessons for the present times.

Abandoned at birth by her neurotic mother, scorned by her misogynist father, Hetty set out as a child to prove her value. Following the simple rules of her wealthy Quaker father, she successfully invested her money and along the way proved to herself that she was wealthy and therefore worthy.

Never losing faith in America’s potential, she ignored the herd mentality and took advantage of financial panics and crises. When everyone else was selling, she bought railroads, real estate, and government bonds. And when everyone was buying and borrowing, she put her money into cash and earned safe returns on her dollars. Men mocked her and women scoffed at her frugal ways, but she turned her back and piled up her earnings, amassing a fortune that supported businesses, churches, municipalities, and even the city of New York itself.

She relished a challenge. When her aunt died and did not leave Hetty the fortune she expected, she plunged into a groundbreaking lawsuit that still resonates in law schools and courts. When her husband defied her and sank her money on his own risky interests, she threw him out and, marching down to Wall Street, quickly made up the loss. Her independence, outspokenness, and disdain for the upper crust earned her a reputation for harshness that endured for decades. Newspapers kept her in the headlines, linking her name with witches and miscreants. Yet those who knew her admired her warmth, her wisdom, and her wit.

Set during a period of financial crisis strikingly similar to our current one, acclaimed author Janet Wallach’s engrossing exploration of a fascinating life revives a rarely-mentioned queen of American finance.


  1. Florette Lewis says:

    Reading “Desert Queen” and was wondering about your thoughts on Iran, Iraq, Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Have you written about Syria, Damascus, Aleppo? What about the museum in Bahgdad that Bell’s estate helped fund? Did it get looted? My book club is discussing the book on Sunday.

    • Seeing the turmoil in the Middle East now, it is hard not to think about the years after World War I when the region was in turmoil. One never knows what the outcome will be or how long it will take to settle down, but it is certainly fascinating to watch.
      The great antiquities museum that Gertrude Bell founded in Baghdad has reopened, and I have heard that the bronze bust of her is on display. Her name is now mentioned in Iraqi textbooks and she is once again recognized for the important work she did for the country.

  2. Bruce Fitzgerald says:

    I recently purchased your new book and am looking forward to learning how you rescued the remarkable Hetty Green from the dustbin of history. I am confused, however, at the reference to the Geolet family on page 144 (and in the index) when
    I believe you are referring to the well-known Goelets. If so, shame on your proofreader for soiling what seems otherwise to be a fascinating read.

    • I am delighted that you are enjoying reading about Hetty Green. She was a fascinating figure, eccentric and brilliant, and I’m delighted to bring her back into people’s awareness. There is much to learn from her investing, and much to think about from the financial panics of the past.
      Thank you so much for spotting the spelling error. We will correct it in the next printing.

  3. Connie L. says:

    Just finished Desert Queen, cannot believe how she has been left out of history. Makes me realize how little I know of the story of this part of the world. Will have to go out and buy Hetty Green. I love that the other half (women’s stories) of history is now being written. Keep up the great work. I will buy all you write!!

  4. Jennifer says:

    Never losing faith in America’s potential, she ignored the herd mentality and took advantage of financial panics and crises Рan impressive role model for young women.

    Jennifer C. Warren

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