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He was also very particular and very perfectionist, and sometimes kind of difficult.” But, she adds, “that was good.
I learned a lot from him.” From her mother, who passed away in 2007 and was a familiar guest on Stewart’s TV show, she learned the domestic arts that she would go on to enshrine in books, magazines and television programs.
Stewart describes “Big Martha”—as she was known to her family—as “the mother hen of six children and all our friends.
She was the cook and she sewed our clothes and did all the laundry.” It’s no small irony that Stewart’s mother, the very model of ’50s domesticity, could not wait to get out of the house.
It’s clear that she inherited many of her most valuable traits, not to mention her considerable energy, from her father.
This is a woman, after all, who wrote, in her high school yearbook, “I do what I please and I do it with ease,” and who was once described by a friend as “more focused than a bullet in flight”—a perfect metaphor to sum up Stewart’s determination and to explain her extraordinary success.
Later in the day she’ll promote her 73rd book, , at a pop-up store in the West Village.
She was very smart and involved in quite a few of the high school’s academic clubs.” Stewart was also acutely observant, even then, of the way other people lived and what they wanted out of life.
Nutley in the 1950s was largely white and working or middle class, but within that demographic there were subtle variations, and, says Stewart, “I paid attention to the difference.” She rattles off the names of streets emblematic of the town’s social hierarchy: Satterthwaite Avenue, where the wealthier residents lived; Passaic Avenue, mostly working class in those days; Elm Place, the socioeconomic middle and, as it happens, the street where Stewart grew up. “I made sure I always had friends everywhere.” It was at the homes of those friends, she notes, that she “got to know how everybody lived and got to know what they needed and what they wanted.” Stewart has built her company, and her fortune, on that knowledge.
“The minute that the youngest child was five years old and in kindergarten,” recalls Stewart, “Mom went right back to teaching.” In those days, Stewart wasn’t thinking much about the future.