Martha Stewart was born Martha Helen Kostyra on August 3, 1941, in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was the first daughter and second child of Eddie and Martha Kostyra, a pharmaceutical salesman and school teacher, respectively. The Kostyras were a middle class family of Polish heritage. The family moved to Nutley, New Jersey when Martha was just three. There, Martha learned gardening from her father, cooking and sewing from her mother, and the art of baking cakes and pies from her neighbors who were retired bakers.
Martha Kostyra was hard working even as a child. A straight "A" student, she eventually won a partial scholarship to Barnard College in New York City. While in college, she worked as a model to help pay her college tuition. After her sophomore year, in 1961, she married a young law student by the name of Andrew Stewart. She continued modeling after her graduation from college and appeared in a number of television commercials. However, when daughter Alexis was born in 1965, Martha quit modeling for good.
In 1967, Martha began a career as a stockbroker. Meanwhile, Andy Stewart was busy founding a publishing house. When a recession hit in 1973, Martha quit the brokerage business and she and Andy moved to Westport, Connecticut where they busied themselves restoring the 1805 era Turkey Hill Road farmhouse which would later be seen on her television show. By 1976, Martha had begun a catering business, which she ran from the basement of her home. Within 10 years, this had become a $1 million enterprise. She later expanded to a retail store where she sold entertaining supplies and specialty foods.
In 1982, Martha published the book Entertaining. It was an instant bestseller. She also published two cookbooks as a followup. She began making national television appearances and continued to expand her business. Shortly thereafter, she became the spokesperson for K-Mart. Martha was becoming a household name and business success, but her marriage began to suffer. Martha and Andy divorced in 1990.
Martha worked endlessly in building her company, and became a contributor for many magazines. In 1990, Martha began her own monthly magazine - Martha Stewart Living. Following a number of television appearances and specials, Martha also began her own television show that, like her magazine, was called Martha Stewart Living.
By 1996, she was named one of "America's Most Influential People". In 1997, she created "Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia", a conglomerate with branches encompassing publishing, broadcasting, direct mail, and other avenues. The hugely successful company went public in 1999. At the pinnacle of success, charges of insider trading were brought against Martha. Though she maintains her innocence on all counts, she was convicted and order to spend five months in prison. Rather than wait for appeal, Martha served her time and came back to her business which continues to thrive and expand.
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