‘Dear Abby’ writer Pauline Phillips dies at 94

The Associated Press

Pauline Friedman Phillips died Wednesday “after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease,” Steve Karnowski writes. Under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she wrote a very popular advice column until 1987, when she handed the column to her daughter, Jeanne Phillips.

For years Pauline Phillips competed with her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, who wrote as Ann Landers. Esther’s daughter is advice columnist Margo Howard.

“I’m saddened to hear about the death Pauline Phillips,” advice columnist Dan Savage tells Poynter in an email.

But she lived a long, long life. I was more of an Ann Landers fan than a Dear Abby fan but I’ve always appreciated Pauline’s advice—given decades ago—to a woman who wanted to know what she could do to improve the quality of her neighborhood after a gay couple bought a house on her block: “You could move.”

In his email, Savage notes he’s writing from Landers’ old desk, which he owns.

“Aside from the Dear Abby column, which appeared in 1,000 newspapers as far off as Brazil and Thailand,” Karnowski writes, “Phillips conducted a radio version of ‘Dear Abby’ from 1963 to 1975 and wrote best-selling books about her life and advice.”

Poynter fellow Gregory Favre was a friend of Lederer and knew Phillips socially. “It was remarkable that twin sisters became the most syndicated, successful, and sassy advice columnists ever,” he says in an email. “One secret of success they shared: They worked at it with passion and respect for those who wrote to them and for the millions who read them.”

John Prine noted Abby’s fame:

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  • http://www.facebook.com/fbondini.bond Frank Bond

    Thanks for posting the John Prine song alone with the obit. It saved me from having to find it, so I posted YOUR version of the AP photo on my fb wall. One has to be “a certain age” to even know about the song!

  • Jack Meoff

    Pauline Phillips died? My God, I didn’t even know that the old geezer was sick! Listen people, I’ve told you this at least 1000 times already: YOU MUST KEEP ME IN THE LOOP, OK?