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If you like Martha Stewart's story, you might also like:
Michael Eisner,
Quincy Jones,
Naomi Judd,
Thomas Keller,
Fred Smith and
Oprah Winfrey

Martha Stewart also appears in the video:
Changing Lanes

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Martha Stewart in the Achievement Curriculum section:

Related Links:
Martha Blog

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Martha Stewart
Martha Stewart
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Martha Stewart Interview

Multi-Media Lifestyle Entrepreneur

June 2, 1995
Williamsburg, Virginia

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  Martha Stewart

Did you have a vision of what you wanted to accomplish when you were young?

Martha Stewart: When I was young, I wanted to be a teacher. I was greatly inspired by my third grade teacher, Miss Irene Wire, and by my fifth grade teacher, Miss Mitchell. My parents were both teachers. So I really pursued that idea as a career, until I got to college.

In college I discovered the world of chemistry, which I loved. I discovered the world of architectural history. I discovered so many different things that I decided that maybe I would forgo the teaching career for a while. The first thing that really caught me was the stock market. I became a stockbroker, immediately out of college, forgoing architecture school. My dream now, in retrospect then, was to be an eclectic knowledge-gathering person, in order to be able to learn and then to teach. And I'm still doing that, so I think I am a teacher.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Tell me about what made those teachers so special.

Martha Stewart Interview Photo
Martha Stewart: I just saw my third grade teacher last year at my mother's 80th birthday party. She lives in Newark, New Jersey. She is still as feisty and as honest and as ethical a person as she was when I was in third grade. She's a tiny little powerhouse of energy. I thought about her a lot when I saw her again. She was special because she took time and cared for each of her students. There wasn't a moment that wasn't devoted to her children, as she called them. She was a spinster, but that never deterred in her love of all the other children. In fact, I think it made her more loveable. And she was fair, but she was stern. She was strict, but she was forgiving. She was the ideal teacher to me.

And the fifth grade teacher?

Martha Stewart: Very much in the same mold. A family person, someone who shared her students with other teachers, because we started to have moving classes in fifth grade. In fifth and sixth grade you traveled from one room to another to study the different subjects. And she would share, and she was fair. It's the fairness and the ability to listen, and to answer questions that I really find very, very important with teaching.

Any experiences as a young person that inspired you?

Martha Stewart: Oh, I have an experience a day, at least. And it's not like seeing Jesus Christ in a dream or something like that, it's not a religious kind of experience that I experience daily. It's more involving nature, involving natural resources, involving a special quote said by a special person.

I really found that I was drawn to what I call my mentors. I have developed over the years a whole group of important people, people important to me that I consider mentors. Now, they may be the gardener in the estate down the road. They may be a farmer who milks his cows. They may be a very special professor. All different kinds of people fall into this group of what I call my mentors. It may be someone I've never met, but only read, like Garcia Marquez. One of my dreams is to meet him. But those are my mentors. George Eliot, the great novelist. Jane Austen is a mentor of mine, in terms of language. So, I've informally constructed this structure in my life of mentors.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

What books did you read when you were young?

Martha Stewart: I was a very avid reader. In third grade I won the contest at the public library for being able to get a score of a hundred on a reading test. The reading test was based on the numbers of books you read, and the amount that you retained from those books. As a special treat, when you were in the Children's Room, you were allowed to go to the next level of the library, which was the Stockton Room, named after Frank Stockton, a famous author who had lived in our town. And then you got into the Stockton Room if you passed a test. I was the first to pass that test; at a very young age I was allowed to go into the adult library.

We had a lot of chores at our house, a tremendous number of chores, but we were always granted the time to read. And I had a reading chair that I sat in and read in. I also had a favorite tree that I sat in and read in. It sounds a little idyllic, sort of Mark Twainish, but it was true. I would find a quiet place. On Sunday mornings, because we had such chaos around our house, everybody running and getting dressed to go to church and everything, I sat in the car and read. I read everything. I read from A to Z in the Stockton Room. I just started on the As and went all the way through.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

In the adult library I had to be more choosy because there were so many books. But I would talk to the librarians, I would get suggestions, I would read the book reviews, I would find out what I should be reading. So it was kind of an informal against structured kind of existence.

I read everything from all the Europeans, the Russians, the English novelists. I read an awful lot of biographies that were very inspiring. In the children's library there were those orange books. I don't know if you remember those orange biographies of everybody, everyone from Harriet Beecher Stowe to the presidents. I read every single one. So that was a good experience.

Martha Stewart Interview Photo
Now I read constantly. I'm reading lots of different books, but I get inspiration again from those. Nowadays I'm still reading voraciously. Really as an opportunity to learn, to constantly figure out what I really need to know in homes that my reader will have the same desires and the same need. Right now I read a lot of gardening. I read a lot of theory of gardening and landscape. I just acquired an 1805 book by Humphrey Repton, who is one of the great English landscape architects, but who also had a very serious view of how to live and how to structure one's exterior life. So I'm reading a lot of that stuff. I'm still reading novels. I'm reading James Dickey's new novel To The White Sea, which is fascinating. But that's more about the writer's craft than it is about the stories: the bombing of Tokyo, and fire bombings. Horrible story, beautifully constructed. I'm reading constantly, and it's very inspiring.

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