Erma Bombeck

March 22, 2012


Erma Louise Bombeck was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column that described suburban home life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s. Bombeck also published 15 books in her life. From 1965 to 1996, Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a Midwestern suburban housewife with broad, and sometimes eloquent humor. By the 1970s, her columns were read, twice weekly, by thirty million readers of the 900 newspapers of the U.S. and Canada

Erma was born in Bellbrook, Ohio. She grew up in a working-class family in Dayton, Ohio. In 1942, Bombeck entered Parker Vocational High School, where she wrote a serious column, mixing in bits of humor. In 1943, for her first journalistic work, Erma interviewed Shirley Temple, who visited Dayton, and the interview became a newspaper feature.

Bombeck completed high school in 1944. Then, to earn a college scholarship fund, she worked for a year as a typist and stenographer, for the Dayton Herald and several other companies, and did minor journalistic assignments for the Dayton Herald as well. She enrolled in the Roman Catholic University of Dayton. Bombeck lived in her family home and worked at Rike’s Store, a department store, where she wrote humorous material for the company newsletter.

In 1964, Bombeck resumed her writing career for the local Kettering-Oakwood Times, with weekly columns which yielded $3 each.  In 1965, the Dayton Journal Herald requested new humorous columns as well, and Bombeck agreed to write two weekly 450-word columns for $50. After three weeks, the articles went into national syndication through the Newsday Newspaper Syndicate, into 36 major U.S. newspapers, with three weekly columns under the title “At Wit’s End“. Bombeck quickly became a popular humorist nationwide. In 1967, her newspaper columns were compiled and published by Doubleday, under the title of “At Wit’s End.”

Aaron Priest, a Doubleday representative, became Bombeck’s loyal agent. By 1969, 500 U.S. newspapers featured her “At Wit’s End” columns, and she was also writing for Good Housekeeping Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Family Circle, Redbook, McCall’s, and even Teen magazine. Bombeck and her family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to a lavish hacienda on a hilltop in Paradise Valley. In 1976, McGraw-Hill published Bombeck’s The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank, which became a best-seller. In 1978, Bombeck arranged both a million-dollar contract for her fifth book, If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? and Aunt Erma’s Cope Book (1979).

At the invitation of television producer Bob Shanks, Bombeck participated in ABC’s Good Morning America from 1975 until 1986. She began doing brief commentaries and eventually did both gag segments and important interviews. By 1985, Erma Bombeck’s three weekly columns were being published by 900 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada, and were also being anthologized into a series of best-selling books. Bombeck belonged to the American Academy of Humor Columnists, along with other famous personalities.

Erma Bombeck passed away on April 22, 1996 from complications of a kidney transplant. She is interred at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.

Please note:  We often receive requests for Erma Bombeck articles, and unfortunately we have no collection of her individual writings/articles. In order to locate a particular column, we would have to know the exact date it ran in the paper.


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14 Responses to Erma Bombeck

  1. rosie protzmann on December 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    I am looking for an Erma article from the 60’s, 70;s 80’s about receiving a tacky Christmas letter from the perfect family and her reply regarding her family. The Perfects had two children, Dwight David and Miracle. How can I find that column?

  2. John T. Nichols on January 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

    I have two columns from Erma Bombeck’s collection that my wife taped to the inside of the kitchen cabinets. These copies are now yellow and ready to disintegrate. The columns are from the late sixties/early seventies and are “Why don’t you grow up” and “With lovers like this…. both pertaining to raising children. Our children now have children and we would like to give them copies of these two wonderful columns. If you are able to e-mail me the columns I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you John Nichols

  3. Rose Richardson on May 31, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I am looking for the article “When they leave home” 1969. I have the origingal, yellower and ripped. It was from Newsday Inc. 1969. thankyou

  4. joann on September 10, 2015 at 12:26 am

    Looking for article that was printed in the paper about men and front shelf syndrome? Can anyone help me locate it. It pretained to men not looking past the first thing they see on a shelf and it could be right behind the first thing on the shelf .
    Thank you all for any help you can send to me.

  5. Sue Smither on September 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I am looking for an article Mrs. Bombeck had written some time ago about the first time she went into her mother’s house after her mom past away. A friend showed it to me to read just after my mom past in 1990, so I’m not sure actually when it was written. I would love to have a copy now that I have lost my sister. It was comforting and helped me through that sad event! Thank you for your time and help.

  6. Nina Spriggs on September 24, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I have been looking for a copy of Erma’s “You are rich if you have a water jug ” I don’t know when it was published .Probably in the seventies . To me this was one of her funniest stories because it reminded me of my wild and crazy house and family. We need another writer just like Erma . God rest her soul. Any help would be appreciated . Thank you . Nina Spriggs

    • Lisa on September 24, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Ms. Spriggs,

      Thank you for your interest in our Dayton Daily News Collection. We often receive requests for Erma Bombeck articles and unfortunately we have no collection of her writings/articles. My apologies. For us to find the piece, we would have to know the exact date it ran in the paper.

      On a few occasions I believe Bombeck compiled many of her columns into books, so it’s quite possible that after a Google search under the subject, you may be able to find out if it was put into a book and which book it’s in.

      I’m very sorry we could not be of more assistance to you at this time.

  7. Kristine McCowen on October 28, 2015 at 12:57 am

    I am looking for a column Erma wrote which was a parody on the Christmas newsletter. It was hilarious — the opposite of the “normal” family with perfect children and perfect life. It was a doozy. Had kept it for a long time but lost the article. Would love to have it once again.

  8. Mary Leicht on November 13, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    I am looking for an article that Erma Bombeck wrote in July of 1986. It was about why God gave mothers children with disabilities. I had a copy and now I can’t find it. If anyone can help I would so appreciate it.



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