Erma Bombeck

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Erma Bombeck


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Humorist, writer, columnist and journalist Erma Bombeck found the humor in the everyday experiences of being a wife and mother and shared it with her readers.


Already known for her wit, Erma Bombeck's career as a humorist really began to take off in the mid-1960s. Entitled "At Wit", her humor column developed quite a following and gave voice to suburban housewives. In addition to her column, she wrote for magazines such as Good Housekeeping. She also authored several popular books. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Bombeck also became a TV personality.

Early Life

Humorist, writer, columnist, journalist Erma Louise Fiste was born on February 21, 1927, in Dayton, Ohio. Erma Bombeck found the humor in the everyday experiences of being a wife and mother and shared it with her readers. But her early days were no laughing matter. Bombeck lost her father at the age of nine and her mother went to work to support them.

In junior high school, Erma Bombeck showed early signs of her future work, writing a humor column for her school's paper. She worked for the Dayton Herald (which later became the Journal-Herald) as a copygirl as a teenager and got her first article published while she was still in high school. After graduating in 1944, she joined the publication's writing staff and saved money for college. Bombeck graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949 and returned to the Journal-Herald. That same year, she married Bill Bombeck. Around this time, she also started writing for the paper's women's section.

Writing about Family Life

The Bombecks started a family in 1953 when they adopted a daughter, Betsy. Bombeck stopped working briefly, but soon returned to writing. She found much inspiration in her roles as mother and wife. The Bombeck family continued to grow during the 1950s with the addition of two sons; Andrew in 1955 and Matthew in 1958.

Already known for her keen wit and humorous observations, Bombeck's career as a humorist really began to take off in the mid-1960s. Her humor column, which first appeared in the Kettering-Oakwood Times, eventually went national through a newspaper syndicate. Initially her work appeared in a few dozen papers, but that number grew to hundreds over the next few years. Entitled "At Wit", her column found humor in some of the headaches associated with motherhood and family life and developed quite a following. She gave voice to the nation's many suburban housewives while making them laugh and even cry at the same time.

Success Outside Newspapers

In addition to her column, Bombeck wrote for magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Redbook and McCall's. She also authored several popular books, including such best sellers as The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976) and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978). The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank was later turned into a television movie starring Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin.

Beginning in the mid-1970s, Bombeck also became a television personality, appearing on Good Morning America for more than a decade. She also tried her hand at creating a television series. She lived in Los Angeles for a time while working the sitcom Maggie. The show's family was based on her own, and she wrote several of the episodes. Bombeck was also an executive producer on the series. Despite Bombeck's popularity, the show failed to catch on with television audiences and was canceled after eight weeks on the air.


Bombeck also had a very serious side too. She was a vocal advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment for women and served on the President's National Advisory Committee for Women in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, Bombeck tackled a very difficult subject; childhood cancer, with her book I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise (1989). She visited a camp for children with cancer and spent a lot of time with families with children fighting cancer as part of writing the book. Like her other work, it found the humor in a challenging situation while making some poignant observations.

Health Issues

In the 1990s, Bombeck faced her own battle with cancer. In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of her health problems. After her cancer treatment, her kidneys began to shut down because of a disorder known as polycystic kidney disease. In 1996, Bombeck received a kidney transplant at the San Francisco Medical Center.

Erma Bombeck died from medical complications related to her transplant on April 22, 1996, in San Francisco, California.

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