One of America’s favorite humorists, writers and columnists, Erma Louise Fiste was born on February 21, 1927.
An upbeat, positive woman, she came from difficult beginnings. She was born to a teenage mother, and her father died when she was 9 years old. I love this: As a girl, she earned money by tap dancing on a radio program; apparently Americans were so in love with tap dancing they’d even listen to it on the radio.
She began writing a column for her local weekly paper, which paid her $3 a submission. Then the Dayton Herald asked her to write for them, and she wrote two weekly columns for $50. After only a few weeks, her columns went into national syndication to 36 papers.
Between 1965 and 1996 Bombeck wrote over 4,000 newspaper columns, using broad, sometimes eloquent humor, chronicling the ordinary life of a housewife. By the 1970s, her columns were read by 30 million readers of the 900 newspapers in the USA and Canada.
As Erma Bombeck, she found the humor in the everyday experiences and shared it with her readers. Her column, which first appeared in her local Ohio newspaper, eventually went national. 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 the funny bits in the headaches of everyday life.
In addition to her column, Bombeck wrote for women’s magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Reader’s Digest, Redbook and McCall’s. She also published several popular books, including bestsellers: 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), and All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned in Loehmann’s Dressing Room (1995). The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank was made into a 1978 television movie starring Carol Burnett and Charles Grodin.
Bombeck was a woman of her time. She heard Betty Friedan speak and, like many other women, had her consciousness raised. In the 1970s, she served on the Presidential Advisory Committee for Women and traveled around the country speaking on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s amazing to hear how modern some of the arguments against it sound; the same comments being made today against Trans Rights and unisex bathrooms.
Bombeck was taken by kidney disease in 1996.
She once wrote:
“He who laughs … lasts.”