Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Great Neck, New York, she graduated from Great Neck High School. Kampen attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison before becoming a copy girl at the newspaper New York Journal American and then went on to work at several weekly newspapers.
She moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut in 1954 and divorced her husband after an eleven-year marriage. While working at her father's flower shop in New York City, she wrote fiction stories. She also frequently contributed to the local newspaper, The Ridgefield Press, using the pseudonym, H. Loomis Fenstermacher.
Kampen's first book, Life Without George, was published by Doubleday in 1961 and was about her divorce. The book became the basis for The Lucy Show, a televison series that ran from 1962 to 1968 and starred Lucille Ball, who had also experienced divorce recently in her split with Desi Arnaz. (Producers re-wrote Ball's character, Lucille Carmichael, as a widow, however, Vivian Vance's character, Vivian Bagley, is portrayed as divorced.)
Kampen lived in Connecticut until 1988, when she moved to California. She died February 1, 1998 from breast cancer at the age of 75.
Her books published include Life Without George, Are You Carrying Any Gold Or Living Relatives?, Due to Lack of Interest, Tomorrow Has Been Canceled, Fear Without Childbirth, Nobody Calls At This Hour Just To Say Hello, Here Comes The Bride, There Goes Mother, Europe Without George, We That Are Left, and Last Year At Sugarbush.
- "Obituary - Irene Kampen". Levittown Tribune. February 20, 1998. Archived from the original on May 18, 2011. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
- Robert McG. Thomas Jr. (February 8, 1998). "Irene Kampen, 75, a Humorist Inspired by Adversity, Is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
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