'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:

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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