Rejebian, Ermance Marion Varsaverian (1906–1991)

By: Samantha Dodd

Type: Biography

Published: November 11, 2021

Updated: November 11, 2021


Ermance Rejebian, book reviewer, lecturer, broadcaster, author, and namesake of Rejebian Clubs, was born Ermance Marion Varsaverian on March 17, 1906, in Bursa, Turkey. Her parents, Armenian Christians, were Mihran Mehron Varsaverian and Arousiag Verian. Her father was a lawyer, local Armenian leader, and president of the Board of Education. During World War I, the family moved to Constantinople to escape the Armenian genocide. In 1919 her father sent her to England, where she stayed with a friend and learned English. According to a written account by Ermance, her father was “a student of the western culture” and instilled in her a “love of America and the American way of life.” After her sister married an American, Ermance traveled to join them in the United States in 1920.

She attended Los Angeles High School and earned her teaching certificate from University of California, Los Angeles. At age twenty-one, she became a U. S. citizen. While teaching in Beverly Hills, she met and married Vahram Yepram Rejebian, an Oriental rug salesman and Armenian immigrant, on June 29, 1928. The couple moved to Houston, Texas, in 1930, and Ermance gave birth to their son Myron.

After her husband was asked to head the rug department at the Titche-Goettinger Department Store, Ermance and her family relocated to Dallas in 1934. A poor book presentation on The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933), the subject of the Armenian tragedy, motivated Ermance to write her own review. A friend invited her to present her review of the book at a meeting of the Dallas Story League. Oral book reviews as an art form began in Dallas in the early 1930s. These presentations consisted of one-hour long interpretations of books and were delivered from memory. Ermance Rejebian’s oratory skills drew large crowds and wait lists. In 1936 friends of Ermance established the first Rejebian Club; this was also the year her daughter Mary was born. At the peak, there were forty-two clubs named for her, including groups in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Mineral Wells, and Sherman.

In 1945 Rejebian began to give book reviews and news commentaries on Dallas radio station WFAA. She also provided the "background of the news" in a weekly broadcast for seven years. In 1951 she was chosen by Time magazine as one of the most influential women of the Southwest. She continued her radio work until 1952. In 1959 she was the first recipient of the Americanism Medal awarded by the Jane Douglas Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to honor her contributions as a naturalized citizen. In 1961, with her husband, she established a full tuition scholarship at Southern Methodist University. She was honored with the Zonta Service Award in 1963.

Rejebian authored two short books describing her immigration to America and her family’s life thereafter—Testament of Faith (1962) and Pilgrimage to Freedom (1973). A devout Christian, she was a member of the Highland Park United Methodist Church. Her studies on the Bible were published as The Book: The Bible Studies of Ermance Rejebian (1979). She also published Abroad with the Rejebians, a book of her letters. She prepared nine reviews a year until 1970 and gave an average of forty-two reviews a month during the first part of her career. She wrote out her reviews by hand and then memorized them. Her book reviews raised funds to benefit many civic organizations. She continued to give reviews, though at a scaled-down pace, into the 1980s.

Ermance Varsaverian Rejebian died in Dallas, Texas, on September 29, 1989. She was buried in that city in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park. In 1991 the seasonal Revue Series given by Highland Park United Methodist Church was renamed in her honor. Many clubs that began as Rejebian Clubs were still active in the 2020s.

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Dallas Morning News, September 30, 1989. House Resolution No. 552 (https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HR00552I.HTM), accessed November 6, 2021. Krista Nightengale, “The Book Club That Never Reads the Book,” D Magazine, July 2013. The Rambler (Fort Worth), November 22, 1960. Ermance Rejebian Papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. Rose-Mary Rumbley, “Ermance Rejebian,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 15 (Fall 2003).

Categories:

  • Journalism
  • Radio and Television
  • Women
  • Women's Clubs
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II

Places:

  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Samantha Dodd, “Rejebian, Ermance Marion Varsaverian,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rejebian-ermance-marion-varsaverian.

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November 11, 2021
November 11, 2021

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