The wealthiest women in the US have gotten even richer over the past year. Buoyed by a strong stock market and rising real estate prices, the combined net worth of the ten richest women on The Forbes 400 is $156.6 billion, up from $124.2 billion last year.
Altogether there are 48 women on this year’s Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, up from 45 last year. Newcomers include Elaine Marshall, who inherited a stake in private conglomerate Koch Industries from her late husband, and Anne Gittinger, granddaughter of the co-founder of Nordstrom department stores.
Another new woman is a longtime Forbes 400 member: James Pritzker, a former lieutenant colonel in the army and an heir to the extended Chicago Pritzker family fortune, announced in August that she will now be known as Jennifer Pritzker. That makes her the first transgender billionaire. Pritzker runs the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago.
The wealthiest woman in America, Christy Walton, is also the world’s richest woman, with a net worth Forbes pegs at $35.4 billion. Walton inherited a stake in retailer Wal-Mart and a chunk of stock in solar firm First Solar FSLR -1.23% when her husband, John Walton, died in a plane crash in 2005.
Walton ranks 6th on The Forbes 400 list. She leads a very private life in Jackson, Wyoming but in August had a rare bit of publicity when was given an award by the Imagen Foundation for producing the film Bless Me, Ultima, based on the book by Rudolfo Anaya, who is considered the father of Chicano literature. Walton, aged 59, has faced a number of difficulties in her life in addition to her husband’s death. Her son – her only child – battled cancer when he was just three years old and she fought a case of pneumonia that nearly killed her, according to the Imagen Foundation.
America’s second-richest woman is Alice Walton, sister-in-law of Christy Walton and daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Forbes puts her net worth at $33.5 billion, a fortune mostly comprised of stock she inherited in Wal-Mart and her art collection. She ranks 8th on The Forbes 400. Alice Walton opened the Crystal Springs Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011, and it has proved to be a popular attraction, already clocking 1 million visitors.
Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, ranks 35th on The Forbes 400. She is the richest woman in Silicon Valley and is the 6th richest woman on the list, with a net worth of $11.7 billion.
Women still make up a minority of The Forbes 400 richest – just 12% of this elite group. Most of the women inherited their fortunes; only seven of the 45 started their own businesses or co-founded them with their husbands.