Martha Stewart was born Martha Helen Kostyra on Aug. 3, 1941 in Jersey City, N.J.
Martha was born into a middle-class Polish family, to parents Eddie and Martha Kostyra, a pharmaceuticals salesman and a schoolteacher, respectively.
Martha had four brothers and a sister, and the children grew up in Nutley, N.J. Martha’s mother cooked and sewed clothes for the family, which gave Martha early exposure to the domestic arts that she would later master. Martha was taught the arts of cooking and sewing from her mom, as well as gardening from her dad.
Thanks to a strong work ethic instilled by her parents, Martha was always an excellent student. She excelled in high school and also began modeling in addition to her schoolwork.
Due to her straight As, Martha earned a partial scholarship to Barnard College. While at Barnard, Martha continued to model, and in her second year she married boyfriend Andy Stewart. After getting married, she left Barnard temporarily while her husband finished law school. She did return a year later, and ended up graduating with a degree in history. In 1965, Martha’s first daughter, Alexis, was born.
In 1967, Martha embarked on a career as a stockbroker, one of few women doing this at the time. She did very well and would continue her job as a broker until 1973, when she left to spend more time with her daughter.
The family then moved to Westport, Conn., where the family decided to settle down and purchase a home. They bought and began a huge restoration of the farmhouse, Turkey Hill, that later became the model for the set of “Martha Stewart Living."
Also in 1967, Martha started a catering business out of her basement with a good friend, which led to her opening her first retail store where she sold home entertainment kits.
Word spread quickly about Martha’s ability and novelty, and soon after she received a publishing deal to write a book on catering. Along with Elizabeth Hawes, she co-authored the best-selling book, “Entertaining."
After “Entertaining” became a hit, Martha’s career began to skyrocket. She wrote books, columns and other literature on homemaking. Eventually, Martha became the spokeswoman for K-Mart. In 1990, Martha and husband Andy divorced.
Throughout the 1990s, Martha developed her own magazine, “Martha Stewart Living." Then in 1993 she began a television show of the same name based on her domestic projects. In 1997, Stewart consolidated her various operations into one company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. In a few years the company went public, and Martha was the majority shareholder.
Then, in 2002, problems began. A scandal erupted involving the sale of Martha’s shares in the pharmaceutical company ImClone, just days before the company’s application for a new drug was denied.
Martha was convicted of four felony charges involving the scandal, and she was sentenced to house arrest and jail time in 2004. She served five months at a women's prison in West Virginia, and was released on March 4, 2005.
After her jail time concluded, Martha quickly made a comeback. She returned to public life, getting re-involved in her “Martha Stewart Living” group of magazines, and her home design products in stores like K-Mart and Macy's. She is also the host of daytime TV show, “Martha," as well as taking a turn as host of an “Apprentice” spin-off called “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart”.
The “Apprentice” spin-off received poor ratings and was not renewed for a second season. There were also rumors about discord between herself and Donald Trump, the host of the original “Apprentice”. Her daytime show continues to do well, however, and Martha is a regular contributor to the “Today” show as well.
As a result of her convictions though, Stewart is no longer CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which is now being run by President and CEO Susan Lyne, but she does retain creative input.