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Erma Bombeck, Wife, Mother and Author

Updated on January 20, 2016

Erma Bombeck was and is a heroine of mine in the literary world. I've so enjoyed many of her books and quotes. Her thoughts on marriage, men, friends, children and most everything are thick with self effacing humor. Poking fun at herself and her family. Her chosen profession reeked havoc on the lives of her children as they entered puberty and her fame grew, but as with most of us when they reached adulthood they realized how much she loved them.

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

"It Takes a Lot of Courage to Show your Dreams to Someone Else"

Erma Fiste (Erma Louise Bombeck) was born on February 21, 1927, Bellbrook, Ohio. No one knew little Erma would become an award winning columnist, novelist, TV producer, women's rights activist and advocate for children with cancer.

Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the "Titanic" who waved off the dessert cart.

Erma entered elementary school a year early, by 1932 she was an excellent student who loved to read. In 1940 after her start in junior high school, and wrote her first column for the "The Owl", a serious piece with only a spattering of her incomparable wit.

In 1942 Erma secured a position as a copy-girl for the "Dayton Herald" sharing the full time job with a girlfriend. Bombeck's first celebrity interview was in 1943, with Shirley Temple, who was visiting Dayton and the piece became a news feature in the Herald.

Erma graduated from high school in 1944, earned a scholarship and by that time was promoted to typist and stenographer for the "Dayton Herald". While attending the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, Erma failed most of her assignments and the campus newspaper rejected her submissions. After one semester the minor journalist left the university when funds ran out.

Bombeck enrolled in the Roman Catholic University of Dayton, lived in her family's home worked at a department store, and continued writing submitting articles to the company newsletter. Erma worked two part-time jobs. An English professor told Erma that she showed promise as a writer, she in turn began writing for the university's paper The Exponent. Erma graduated from the university with a degree in English, converted to Catholicism and married Bill Bombeck, who also attended the university and was a veteran of World War II. Bill's profession was that of an educator and school supervisor.

When humor goes, there goes civilization

Erma the Homemaker 1954 - 1965

Unable to have children, the Bombeck's adopted a baby girl named Betsy in 1953. It was Erma's decision to become a full time homemaker giving up her budding career as a journalist. The writer bug was too hard for the author to resist and in 1954 Erma provided a humorous column for the "Dayton Shopping News".

Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids

The Bombeck's physician was mistaken in his first diagnosis of Erma, she gave birth to a son Andrew in 1955. The family moved into tract homes in Centerville, Ohio. Since Bombeck had moved away from her journalistic pursuits she put her heart and soul into being a housewife for the next ten years, then giving birth to a second son Matthew in 1958.

There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.

"If You Laugh at it, You Can Live with It"

In 1964 Erma resumed her writing career for the "Kettering-Oakwood Times". Submitting weekly columns which paid out $3.00 each ( I could live with that). These literary gems were written in her small bedroom atop a plank held up with cinder blocks.

The Dayton Journal Herald requested columns from Bombeck too, and she supplied two weekly columns, 450 words for $50.00. In a matter of three weeks the column went into national syndication, hitting 36 national newspapers, three weekly columns, entitled At Wits End.

Bombeck began lecturing in the cities where her columns appeared for a $15,000 fee in 1966. In 1967 her columns were published by Doubleday and Erma also appeared, on the then popular, Arthur Godfrey radio show and became a regular guest.

Dreams have only one owner at a time. That's why dreamers are lonely.

There was nowhere to go but up for Ms. Bombeck, whose "At Wits End" column were regulars in Good Housekeeping, Reader's Digest, Family circle, Redbook, McCalls and Teenmagazines. In 1976 Erma signed with McGraw-Hill who published The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank, a bestseller. In 1978 her fifth book If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I doing In the Pits? A million dollar contract with a $700 thousand dollar advance for her subsequent book, Aunt Erma's Cope Book.

Laughter Rises Out of Tragedy

Erma Bombeck expanded her horizons to include her fight for equal rights in 1978, and was involved in the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women. Erma also worked tirelessly for the Cancer Society specifically for children with cancer.

In 1996 Bombeck went to the city of San Francisco after being diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease to await a kidney transplant. The operation was performed on April 3, however Erma Bombeck passed away on April 22, due to complications following the operation.

My Final Thoughts

While researching and working on this piece I experienced a new joy in writing. Erma showed me that if you stay focused, and you're doing something your passionate about and love, you will succeed.

Thank you Erma.

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first one being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      When I was young my Mom read me great funny story about how to explain sex to children.. it was so funny but that was a kong time ago but eskimo pies were used as how good it was.. would love to read this story to my daughter if anyone can rember it or how to find it????? would love to share it with others

    • denise mohan profile image

      denise mohan 

      7 years ago from California

      Nice hub. Remember use your good china now

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      I never tire of you Dear pmccray! I love you Dear!

    • justom profile image


      8 years ago from 41042

      Great hub, I remember Erma. I grew up right down the interstate 50 miles from her and at that time she was one of the funniest women I'd read. No pretense with her, she was as down to earth as it gets. Thanks for keeping that memory alive! Peace!! Tom

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Your welcome poetlorraine. Erma is one of my all time favorites her witticisms are so right on. Thank you for reading and sharing your comment. Peace to you my friend.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i so enjoyed that, thanks for introducing me to a new author.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Your welcome and I thank you for stopping in and leaving a comment. Peace to you and yours Deborah D.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      8 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Thanks for writing this great tribute. She is one of my favorites.


    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Thank you so much Sage Williams. Your taking time to read and comment is really appreciated. I am a true die hard fan of Ms. Bombeck whose humor was truly remarkable and a breath of fresh air.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 

      8 years ago

      What a really great hub. Your research is amazing. It was nice to learn about Erma Bombeck's life. She is truly a remarkable author. I absolutely love the closing poster.

      Really enjoyed this hub, Rated up.


    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      adrienne2 - thank you my friend for your visit and comment. Erma Bombeck is truly an inspiration to me, a literary genius of humble beginnings, only spreading truth and common sense. I do miss her. Peace to you my friend and all those in your sphere.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Mr. Micky Dee: thank you for the compliment, but I wish I could be more like you . . brave and fearless. I've learned so much from you my friend, thank you for being here!!!

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      JannyC: writing this hub boosted by joy for writing like 199%. Man she raised a family, continued to write on a plank and cider blocks, what a woman. Never stopped, never gave in and realized her dreams.

      She is such an inspirational sage. NEVER give up hope young JannyC - you're much stronger than you think my friend. I so appreciate your visit and comment.

      Peace to you and your son my love.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      RevLady - Sister Erma was truly a wise sage beyond her years. A very special person whose humor I still love until this day. Thank you for your visit and taking time to comment my friend.

    • JannyC profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for this pm. I been really feeling down and starting to give up hope but this reinspired me. Thank you pm, Erma and the big guy upstairs!

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      Done Rebbecca E. and thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. Peace to you and yours.

    • pmccray profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Utah

      BKcreativeone: Your comment was so dead on. Erma had such a rich wit with a dash of good old common sense. I love the antedote regarding the is so true. Thank you for your read and beautiful comment my friend.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 

      8 years ago from Atlanta

      Nice article! I particularly love the quote if you can laugh at it, you can live with it. I truly enjoyed what you have written here on this great author.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      8 years ago

      Very incredibly nice. I hope I can be more like her- and you! Thanks Pmccray!

    • RevLady profile image


      8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      I enjoyed the talents of Erma Bombeck and prospered immensely from her humor and spirit. Thank you PM for this wondereful hub that gives us another glimpse of this wonderful woman.

      Forever His,

    • Rebecca E. profile image

      Rebecca E. 

      8 years ago from Canada

      this is lovely and a great tribute. With your premission I would like to post a link to my wirting blog with this one, as it is so perfect for what i am planning to write. This is just great. Drop me a line if it's cool with you.

    • BkCreative profile image


      8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      How well I remember Erma Bombeck! My sister and I regularly read her columns and called to discuss them. One of our most popular discussions came about when we moved into our own homes which meant the grass needed cutting. But how to get our lazy menfolk to do it. Well, Erma Bombeck said "No matter what you do, do not touch the lawn mower, or it will be yours forever!" Ah, so true and such good, humorous advice.

      It was great to have a woman humor columnist - something unheard of then - and a reminder - that we needed more womanly humor!

      Thanks, pmccray, for the lovely tribute!


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