Born Erma Louise Fiste, Erma Bombeck was a humorist, a writer and even tried her hand at a television series. She was born on February 21st 1927 and though her life was filled with tragedy, she would become one of the world’s most beloved humorists. At age nine, her father died from a stroke, at age 20 she was diagnosed with a kidney disease and she was in her twenties when her mother died.
Erma Bombeck was interested in books and learning from a very young age. When she was five, Erma’s mother was able to convince the school principal to enroll her in kindergarten when most kids didn’t go to kindergarten until the age of six. When she was in high school, Erma took a part time job with the Dayton Herald, now known as the Journal-Herald, and when she graduated from high school, she went to work full time for the Herald. Erma Bombeck would later go to college at the University of Dayton and graduated from there in 1949. After graduation, Erma went back to Dayton Herald and began writing for the Women’s section. It was around this time that she married her husband Bill whom she had met and dated while in college. He was an administrator at the university.
In 1953, the Bombecks started a family when they adopted a young girl. Erma left her job at the newspaper to raise her daughter but she soon returned to writing. She began writing about her life as a mother and a wife and her family had grown to three children by he end of the 1950’s. In 1955 they had a son and then had another son in 1958. She continued to write a humor column over the next few years and in the mid to late 1960’s, Erma’s column entitled At Witwas nationally syndicated in hundreds of newspapers nationwide. Along with her column, Erma Bombeck also wrote for several women’s’ magazines and authored books in the late 1970’s. Among those were two of her more popular books: If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, Then Why Am I Always in the Pits and The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank. That book, The grass is always greener, was also made into a television movie that starred Carol Burnett.
Television also became a medium for her as well. In the mid 1970’s, Erma Bombeck was on the television show Good Morning America for the better part of ten years and even attempted to create a television sitcom called Maggie. It was a short lived series that lasted all of two months. She executive produced the series and even wrote most of the episodes. Despite her immense popularity, the show failed to catch on with people.
Then in 1992, Erma Bombeck as diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. When her cancer treatments were done, she contracted another kidney disease like she had when she was twenty. She received a kidney transplant in 1996 but succumbed in April of that year due to complications from the transplant. Although she is considered as one of our great humorists, she tackled serious subjects like children’s cancer. In fact, her book I Want to Grow Hair, I Want to Grow Up, I Want to Go to Boise was about children’s cancer. She was also an advocate for women’s rights and even served on the President’s Council for Women’s Rights for awhile.
Erma Bombeck was a living example of the phrase: When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. Erma Bombeck was just sixty-nine years old when she passed away in 1996.