I spent many hours through the years attempting to master the Dewey Decimal System while researching one thing or another for school as a student in the New Bedford Public School District.

Most of my research occurred at the Wilks Branch Library at 1911 Acushnet Avenue at the east corner of Brooklawn Park.

We didn't have personal computers in the 1970s, and since there were no Drag Queen Story Hours back then, the libraries were primarily for reading and doing homework. The Wilks Branch was my neighborhood library. We went there to study.

Get our free mobile app

It took 65 years, but finally, I was curious enough to find out who the "Wilks" was in Wilks Branch Library.

You've got to be pretty important to have a library named after you, no?

Wealthy Mother-In-Law
Getty Images

The Wilks Branch Library was built in 1958 – the year I was born  with funds left in trust by Sylvia Ann Howland Green Wilks, whose mother was Hetty Green, the "Witch of Wall Street."

According to Historic Women of the SouthCoast, "Sylvia was born in London on January 7, 1871, the second child and only daughter of Hetty Howland Robinson and her husband, Edward Henry Green.

Shortly after Sylvia's birth, the family returned to Edward's hometown of Bellows Falls, Vermont, and then to Hoboken, New Jersey.

On February 23, 1909, Sylvia married Matthew Astor Wilks, great-grandson of America's first millionaire John Jacob Astor, in New York City. Sylvia was 38, and John was 65. John passed away 18 years later in 1926. Sylvia moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, and then Fifth Avenue in New York.

Sylvia's brother, Colonel Edward "Ned" Green, died in 1936. She inherited his estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth. Sylvia also inherited much of her late brother's fortune.

The Wilks In New Bedford's Wilks Branch Library
Spinner Publications

Sylvia was worth an estimated $100 million in 1946. Upon her death on February 5, 1951, her estate was worth $95 million.

Sylvia left millions of dollars to charity, including $1 million to St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford and $1 million to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Sylvia also left millions to the New Bedford Free Public Library. Her donation paid for the construction of the Francis J. Lawler, Howland-Green and Wilks branch libraries.

The Wilks Branch Library was named after Sylvia.

LOOK: These are the richest women in America

From self-made businesswomen to heirs of wealthy American dynasties, these are the 50 richest women in America, compiled from Forbes data by Stacker.  

25 richest families in America

To find out which clans hold the most wealth, Stacker compiled a list of the 25 richest families in America using 2020 data from Forbes.

More From WFHN-FM/FUN 107