Photograph from the Erma Bombeck Photo Collection at University of Dayton
Erma Louise Fiste Bombeck
(February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996)
Born in Bellbrook, Ohio and raised in Dayton in a working-class family, she excelled at schoolwork and enjoyed taking dance classes in her youth. In 1940, she entered Emerson Junior High School and started her first newspaper column for the school’s paper The Owl. Two years later, she enrolled in Parker (Patterson) Vocational High School and began writing newspaper columns for the school paper and the Dayton Herald. She first attended college at Ohio University and transferred to University of Dayton, where she graduated in 1949 with an English degree.
Following college, she married Bill Bombeck, an educator, and decided to become a fulltime housewife. They adopted a daughter, who was joined by two sons. It is at this time they moved into their Centerville, Ohio house and Erma began to work on a “housewife column” for the Kettering-Oakwood Times. By 1966, Bombeck’s column began running twice a week in the Dayton Journal Herald, where it went national three weeks later into 36 major U.S. newspapers. Soon, she created the newspaper column “At Wit’s End,” which ran three times a week across the nation.
Bombeck’s popularity soared; she signed a publishing deal with Doubleday and became a regular on Arthur Godfrey’s radio talk show. By 1969, she was published in 500 U.S. newspapers and wrote articles for many of the major magazines, such as Redbook and Good Housekeeping. In 1969, the Bombeck family moved out of Centerville and re-located to Phoenix, Arizona.
By the end of the 1970s, she was regularly appearing on television and radio programs, was a bestselling author, and her newspaper column was read by millions of Americans in over 900 newspapers. She provided regular commentary on ABC’s Good Morning America and tried to develop multiple television pilots for both ABC and CBS. In 1978, she was involved in the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women and worked towards the Equal Rights Amendment, which failed to be ratified. She was often a target for criticism by conservative figures due to her vocal opinions on women’s issues and rights.
During the 1980s, Bombeck continued to write and appeared in over 900 newspapers thrice-weekly and was featured on Good Morning America twice-weekly. She was the Grand Marshall for the 1986 Tournament of Roses Parade. Her annual salaries during the 1980s ranged from $500k and $1 million dollars.
Bombeck struggled with health issues during her lifetime. She survived breast cancer, a mastectomy, and suffered from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease that required her to go through daily dialysis. She announced her disease publicly in 1993 and was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for years after having one kidney removed and her second kidney being diseased. Bombeck received a kidney transplant on April 3, 1996 and passed away from complications on April 22, 1996. She was 69 years old.
- At Wit's End (1967)
- Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own (Written with Bil Keane) (1971)
- I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression (1974)
- The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976)
- If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978)
- Aunt Erma's Cope Book (1979)
- Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession (1983)
- Family — The Ties That Bind ... and Gag! (1987)
- I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise: Children Surviving Cancer (1989)
- When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home (1991)
- A Marriage Made in Heaven ... or Too Tired for an Affair (1993)
- All I Know about Animal Behavior I learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room (1995)
- Forever, Erma: Best-Loved Writing from America's Favorite Humorist (1996)
For More Information
- Erma Bombeck - Wikipedia
- Erma Bombeck Collection at University of Dayton
- Erma Bombeck - University of Dayton
- Erma Bombeck - American Writers Museum
- Erma Bombeck - Obituary in New York Times