‘Dear Abby’ dies at 94
Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 8:00 pm
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Pauline Friedman Phillips, who under the name of Abigail Van Buren, wrote the long-running “Dear Abby” advice column that was followed by millions of newspaper readers throughout the world, has died. She was 94.
Publicist Gene Willis of Universal Uclick said Phillips died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Phillips’ column competed for decades with the advice column of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but later they regained the close relationship they had growing up in Sioux City, Iowa.
The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Abby’s replies were often flippant one-liners.
Phillips admitted that her advice changed over the years. When she started writing the column, she was reluctant to advocate divorce:
“I always thought that marriage should be forever,” she explained. “I found out through my readers that sometimes the best thing they can do is part. If a man or woman is a constant cheater, the situation can be intolerable. Especially if they have children. When kids see parents fighting, or even sniping at each other, I think it is terribly damaging.”
If the letters sounded suicidal, she took a personal approach: “I’ll call them. I say, ‘This is Abby. How are you feeling? You sounded awfully low.’ And they say, ‘You’re calling me?’ After they start talking, you can suggest that they get professional help.”
The woman known to the world as Ann Landers died in June 2002. Later that year, the family revealed that Phillips had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. By then Phillips’ daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who had helped her mother with the Dear Abby column for years, was its sole author.
Aside from the Dear Abby column, which appeared in 1,000 newspapers as far off as Brazil and Thailand, Phillips conducted a radio version of “Dear Abby” from 1963 to 1975 and wrote best-selling books about her life and advice.
Published in The Messenger 1.18.13
Abigail Van Buren, Dear Abby, Pauline Friedman Phillips