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Ann Foster is a writer and historian living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her research interest is in the intersection of women, history, and pop culture, especially the lives and stories of figures both well-known and half-forgotten.

The Martha Stewarting of Powerful Women

Illustration by Jason Raish

Ann Foster | Longreads | July 2019 | 14 minutes (3,613 words)

On March 5th, 2004, Martha Stewart was found guilty of obstructing justice and lying to investigators. At the time, she was one of comparatively few female CEOs, and she was irrevocably tied to her company’s success: her smiling, serene, WASPy perfection thoroughly entwined with her company’s numerous ventures. When she first faced charges of insider trading, news media and the general population reacted with schadenfreude, or as one New York Times article coined it, blondenfreude: the glee felt when a rich, powerful, and fair-haired business woman stumbles.” And stumble she did: In the wake of the scandal, Stewart voluntarily removed herself from most of her roles at the company, and as part of her sentencing she was barred from involvement with the empire for five years. Stewart re-joined the Board of Directors in 2011, but the company never truly bounced back from effects of the scandal.

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