The Ultimate Homemaker’s First Home: Martha Stewart’s Early Days

“I’ve always felt that life should be an adventure,” says home-style guru and multi-millionaire Martha Stewart. “Every day should be important.”

Stewart’s adventures began on August 3, 1941 when she was born into the industrial heartland of Jersey City, New Jersey as Martha Helen Kostyra. The first daughter of six children to her schoolteacher mother and pharmaceutical salesman father, Stewart grew up in a very tight knit middle class family of Polish background. When Stewart was three, the family moved to Nutley, New Jersey. Her father, Edward, was an extremely demanding man who always encouraged his children to have ambitious goals. Stewart’s passion for homemaking seemed to stem from this early period, when her father taught her the techniques of gardening and her mother taught her cooking, baking and sewing.

Stewart had always worked hard to succeed in school and, with her straight A average earned a scholarship to Barnard College in New York City. Working as a model to help pay expenses, Stewart got her first taste of fame. She continued in her studies, focusing first on chemistry but later switched to art, European history and architectural history. It was here where she would meet her future husband, law student Andrew Stewart, whom she would marry after her sophomore year. After graduating from college, Stewart returned to modeling and continued to achieve modest success, doing television commercials for such companies as Breck, Clairol, and Lifebuoy.

In 1965, Stewart’s life began to take a turn. Her daughter, Alexis, was born and Stewart took two years to focus on being a mother. In 1967, Stewart flirted with a career as a stockbroker and was fairly successful until she left the profession six years later to focus on her family. It was their purchase of an 1805 farmhouse called Turkey Hill in Westport, Connecticut that would set Stewart’s life on a new path to success.

The couple ambitiously set out to restore the farmhouse themselves, which began to rekindle Stewart’s passion for home renovations and decorating. In 1976, Stewart created a catering business in her basement with a friend from college, who eventually left due to Stewart’s perfectionist nature. She also opened a retail store nearby to sell her foods as well as other entertaining supplies. By placing advertisements in local newspapers and using word of mouth, Stewart’s efforts significantly paid off. In just ten years, her business would become a $1 million enterprise.

Stewart slowly began to venture into the world of publishing, writing articles for the New York Times and becoming editor of House Beautiful. When she agreed to co-author Entertaining, a book on catering with fashion guru Elizabeth Hawes, Stewart immediately became a success. Regular appearances on The Today Show were turning Martha Stewart into a household name. It would not be long before she would shoot to fame and become the multi-million dollar one-woman industry that the world knows today, who managed to turn her passion for homemaking into not only a profitable business but also an empire.

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