Here is a brief look at key points in her life.
— Born Martha Kostyra on Aug. 3, 1941, the future domestic trendsetter was the second of six children of Polish immigrant parents in Jersey City, N.J., across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan.
— Stewart learned to cook and sew from her mother, and to garden from her father who loved to plant flowers and fruit trees in the yard of the home in Nutley, N.J. they moved to when she was 3.
— During her high school years, she won some modeling jobs in New York, work that she continued during her college years at Barnard. In 1961, she married Yale Law School student Andy Stewart while a sophomore at Barnard, and four years later their only child, Alexis, was born.
— As modeling jobs dried up, Stewart took a job as a stockbroker in New York in 1968, a career cut short by the family's move to Connecticut in 1972. The couple undertook an extensive renovation of their Westport house, where Stewart started up a catering company.
— In 1982, she published a cookbook "Entertaining," that became a bestseller, following up with two more cookbooks and appearances on television shows. By 1987, she was regarded as a homemaking expert and signed a $200,000 deal as a lifestyle consultant and pitch woman for discount retailer Kmart.
— Three years later she launched Martha Stewart Living magazine (search), shortly after she and her husband were divorced. In 1993 she started her own syndicated television show. In 1997, she created Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO) to encompass all her businesses. The initial public offering was one of the most successful ever and made her a billionaire.
— On Dec. 27, 2001, Stewart sold $232,000 worth of shares of ImClone Systems, a biotech company founded by and headed by personal friend Sam Waksal (search). The next day, the Food and Drug Administration rejected ImClone's application of a cancer-fighting drug, sending the stock into a tailspin.
— On June 4, 2003, Stewart resigned as chairman and CEO of her namesake company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. hours after she was indicted on obstruction of justice charges.
— On March 5, 2004, Stewart was found guilty of conspiracy, making false statements and obstruction of justice. The charges carry up to 20 years in prison. After the verdict, Stewart released a statement maintaining her innocence: "I am obviously distressed by the jury's verdict but I continue to take comfort in knowing that I have done nothing wrong."
— On July 16, 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum sentenced Stewart to five months in prison, five months of home confinement and fined her $30,000. She was spared an immediate trip to federal prison as the judge stayed her sentence pending appeal.
— On Oct. 8, 2004, Stewart slipped into Alderson Federal Women's Prison in West Virginia in the early morning hours and began serving her five-month sentence as inmate 55170-054.
— On March 4, Stewart was released from Alderson in the early morning hours and arrived back at her multimillion-dollar 153-acre New York estate to begin serving the five-month home detention portion of her sentence.
Reuters contributed to this report.