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The Erma Bombeck Papers

Identifier: UASC-049

Content Description

The personal and professional papers, photographs, and books of Erma Bombeck. Also includes videos, awards, and artwork.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 2000



The collection is open and available to the public for research. The materials in this collection are non-circulating.


The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to locate and obtain permission from the copyright owner or his or her heirs for any other use, such as reproduction and publication.

Biography of Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck (Fiste) graduated with an English degree from the University of Dayton in 1949, which she credited with launching her writing career. Born in Bellbrook, Ohio, Bombeck had a passion for writing from a young age; she contributed to The Owl, the school newspaper at Emerson Junior High in Dayton, and later to Dayton Cooperative High School’s newspaper. To put herself through college, she worked for the Dayton Herald as a copy-girl and at Rike’s department store where she wrote for the company newsletter, Arkay News. While earning her degree from the University of Dayton, she also wrote for the University of Dayton News and The Exponent.

Upon graduating from UD in 1949, Bombeck went back to work for the Dayton Journal Herald as a reporter for the women’s pages and married Bill Bombeck that same year. In 1952, she began a column titled "Operation Dustrag," offering her readers household hints. After welcoming their first child in 1953 and taking a year off, she took a position as editor of the Dayton Shopping News and began writing the column "Thinking Out Loud."

In 1964, she began writing a column for the Kettering-Oakwood Times, which she described as a “utility room beat.” Glenn Thompson, editor of the Dayton Journal Herald, noticed the quality of her work and offered her $50 for two columns a week, which launched her famous column "At Wit’s End." Thompson sent a few samples to the Newsday Syndicate, which quickly offered her a contract. "At Wit’s End" was soon running in hundreds of newspapers across the country.

Over the next three decades, Bombeck gave lectures, wrote 13 books (10 of which appeared on the New York Times "Best Seller" list), appeared on Good Morning America for 11 years, wrote and produced her own TV sitcom, earned 16 honorary doctorates, and was named to The World Almanac’s “25 Most Influential Women in America'' list, to name a few of her many achievements. However, she never stopped writing At Wit’s End; her final column ran April 17, 1996, five days before she died due to complications following a kidney transplant.

Throughout her career, Bombeck was a champion of housewives, promoter of women’s rights, and philanthropist. Among her many endeavors, she was appointed by President Carter to the National Advisory Committee for Women, campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment alongside Liz Carpenter, and worked with the Arizona Kidney Foundation to raise awareness of the need for donors.

Despite her fame and success, Bombeck never forgot where she came from and gave back to her alma mater in many ways. She served on UD’s board of trustees from 1984 to 1987, spoke at events on campus, and participated in the Challenge Campaign during the alumni phase in 1986. She also received an honorary doctorate from UD in 1981, and was named an honorary trustee in 1988. Today, the University of Dayton holds the biennial Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in her honor.


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This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), a University of Dayton alumna who became famous for her syndicated humor column "At Wit's End," which ran in over 900 newspapers at its peak. Erma Bombeck also wrote 13 books (10 of which appeared on the New York Times "Best Seller" list), appeared on Good Morning America for 11 years, wrote and produced her own TV sitcom, and earned 16 honorary doctorates, among her many achievements. This collection includes speeches, interviews, drafts of her original manuscripts, columns, office files, photographs, audiovisual recordings, awards and other materials documenting her life and career.

Acquisition Information

The personal and professional papers of humorist, Erma Bombeck were donated to the University of Dayton by her three children, Betsy Bombeck, Andy Bombeck, and Matt Bombeck in December 2020.

The Erma Bombeck Papers
Katie Jarrell
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Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

300 College Park Dr.
Dayton Ohio 45469-1360