Born in 1941, Martha Kostrya learned gardening from her father Edward as early as age three, and baking, cooking, and sewing from her mother Martha. She earned a partial scholarship to Barnard College in New York City, where she worked as a model and appeared in TV commercials.
In 1961, she married Andy Stewart, whom she later divorced in 1989. In 1965 their daughter Alexis was born. Martha worked as a stockbroker until 1973, and in 1976 she took a bold step in business that would change her life and make her one of the most prominent women in America.
After a brief period running a take-out gourmet food shop in Westport, Connecticut, Martha turned her energies to catering. She ran her catering business out of the basement of her farmhouse.
Within ten years, Martha Stewart, Inc. had become a one hundred million dollar enterprise. She also opened a retail store to sell specialty foods and supplies for entertaining.
In 1982, after writing articles for The New York Times and editing for the magazine House Beautiful, she published her first book, 'Entertaining'. This book was an instant success, and encouraged her to continue this line of work, producing a variety of other books, videotapes, CDs, and television specials.
Appearances on the Today Show helped Martha Stewart become a household name. She eventually started her own magazine, 'Martha Stewart Living'; along with a TV show of the same name. It was first launched as a quarterly magazine in 1982 while the corresponding weekly TV show started in 1992.
She branched out into wedding planning and ideas for the big day with the launch of 'Martha Stewart Weddings' annual magazine in 1994. In 1997, Stewart unveiled her 'Everyday Bed, Bath and Paints' collection, which was exclusively sold at Kmart. After this, she introduced an 'Everyday kitchen textiles' range for the same shop in 1998.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia became a multimillion-dollar public enterprise, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange for the first time in 1999. However, all this was to change when Stewart was accused and later found guilty of insider trading, for which she served a prison sentence.
The highly-publicised court case took place in January 2004 and in March that year Stewart was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of an agency proceeding and making false statements to federal investigators. In July 2004, she was sentenced to five months' imprisonment and two years of supervised release.
Stewart made her comeback following her release from prison in March 2005 through TV. In September 2005, both 'The Martha Stewart Show' and 'The Apprentice: Martha Stewart' debuted. The former ran for seven seasons but was axed in May 2012 due to low ratings.