Martha Nussbaum was born Martha Craven on May 6, 1947, in New York City, New York, United States to the family of a Philadelphia lawyer George Craven and an interior designer and homemaker Betty Warren. She has an older half-brother, Robert, from her father’s first marriage, and a younger sister, Gail.
When Nussbaum was six months old, the family moved when her father, a tax and estates attorney, became a partner in a prominent Philadelphia law firm. Nussbaum's father was a major influence on her. In a recent interview with philosopher Andrea Scarantino, published in the Emotion Researcher, Nussbaum recalled that from her father she learned that discipline, hard work, and pleasure all ran together.
George Craven also taught his daughter the pleasure of being well dressed but never stuffy, while her mother, also influential on Martha’s life and outlook, taught her the value of emotions and to respect all people, regardless of class.
Martha Nussbaum has, on various occasions, spoken candidly about her parents, including her father’s bigotry (born and raised in Macon, Georgia, before the Civil rights era, he would not attend her wedding to Alan Nussbaum, a Jew) and her mother’s drinking (she later entered AA and helped others embrace sobriety). These factors shaped her life and her thinking, just as her father’s encouragement and her mother’s unconditional love did.