Erma Bombeck

The Ohio Connection

  • Erma Fiske was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1927. She attended Emerson Junior High School and Patterson Vocational High.
  • When she was 15, Erma asked for a job at the Dayton Herald. She was hired as a copygirl.
  • Bill Bombeck, Erma’s future husband, worked for the Dayton Journal. For Erma, it was love at first sight.
  • After she graduated from high school, Erma was hired as a full-time writer at the Dayton Journal-Herald (the two papers merged, just as Erma and Bill eventually would).
  • When she had saved enough money, Erma attended Ohio University in Athens.
  • After a semester she transferred to the University of Dayton, from where she would graduate in 1949.
  • After college Erma returned to the Dayton Journal-Herald and wrote for the women’s section.
  • When Bill Bombeck returned home after being stationed in Korea with the Army, the two were married in Dayton in 1949.
  • In 1955, the Bombecks moved to Centerville, a suburb of Dayton. They lived across the street from Phil Donahue.
  • In 1964, Erma went to the editor of the local paper, the Kettering-Oakwood Times, and offered to write a column. He gave her $3 a week to do so.
  • In 1965 Glenn Thompson, editor of the Dayton Journal-Herald, asked her to return to his paper to write it, for $50 a week.
  • Thompson was instrumental in getting Erma’s column syndicated, which meant it was eventually distributed to over 900 newspapers nationwide.
  • Erma won the 1972 Ohioana Book Award in the Category of Humor, for Just Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own!, Doubleday, 1971.
  • In 1976, Erma published The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank, which drew parallels between the settlement of the American West with the settlement of the American suburbs. The book’s setting was based on Centerville, Ohio.
  • From 1984 to 1987, Erma served on the Board of Trustees of the University of Dayton.
  • Erma received an honorary doctorate from the University of Dayton in 1981, and she was named Honorary Trustee in 1988.
  • In 1996, Erma Bombeck was buried in Dayton at Woodland Cemetery.
  • In 2000, Erma’s papers were donated to the University of Dayton. Art Buchwald gave the keynote address, entitled “Things I Cannot Tell You.”
  • The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop is held every other year at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. Workshop speakers have included Art Buchwald, Phil Donahue, Bill Keane, Bill and Matt Bombeck as well as many nationally syndicated columnists and experts on how to get published.
  • This writer’s workshop was originally part of a larger event called the Erma Bombeck Conference on Popular American Humor, which featured an academic symposium, an “Evening with Erma’s Friends” presentation and a series of book signings and online chats.

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