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Birth of advice-givers Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren

July 4, 1918

Writer and advice columnist Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips, better known as Abigail Van Buren of the "Dear Abby" column, in 1961.

Photo in the public domain.

Esther Lederer, known as Ann Landers, in Chicago, 1983.

Photo by Alan Light.

Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips were born seventeen minutes apart on July 4, 1918. The world has come to know them as the advice columnists Ann Landers and Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby). Raised in Sioux City, Iowa, the sisters were in their late thirties before first Esther, then Pauline, entered the advice business. Esther, known as Eppie Lederer, won a contest to replace the original author of the "Ask Ann Landers" column for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955. By 1993, the Ann Landers column appeared in 1200 daily newspapers with 90 million readers, making her the world's most widely syndicated columnist. The column has also been translated into more than twenty languages.

When Lederer began writing the column, her sister contributed by reading some of the letters and suggesting answers. The Sun-Times, however, forbade the partnership, and Phillips (known as Popo) soon decided to write her own column. "Dear Abby" took off, and soon became the chief rival to "Ann Landers," leading to a brief feud between the sisters.

Both columns were characterized by a straightforward tone, practical advice, and a firm but modern moral sensibility. In a change from previous advice columns, both women used humor, including sarcasm and one-liners, in their responses. "Dear Abby," for instance, once published a letter from a reader inquiring whether a woman could get pregnant under water. Abby's response: "not without a man." With an open-mindedness grounded in practical morality, both columnists won loyal followings. A reviewer writing about a collection of "Dear Abby" columns characterized their author as "just the person you'd want to go to with a problem—the aunt with the wise mouth and the heart of gold." Psychology Today once credited Ann Landers with having a greater effect on the way people deal with their problems than any other living individual. Both women were politically liberal, and used their columns to condemn racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism and to advocate for women's rights.

Esther Lederer died on June 22, 2002. The "Ann Landers" column died with her, but has been replaced in many newspapers by "Annie's Mailbox," edited by Lederer's former staff. Pauline Phillips retired from writing "Dear Abby" in 2000 and died of Alzheimer's Disease on January 16, 2013.

Apparently, advice-giving runs in the family. Phillips's daughter, Jeanne, has been writing "Dear Abby" since 2000, while for several years Lederer's daughter, Margo Howard, wrote the advice column "Dear Prudence" and now writes one called "Dear Margo."

Sources:Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, pp. 789-790, 1435-1436; Associated Press, June 22, 2002; New York Times, November 1, 1981, June 10, 1993; Jan Pottker and Bob Speziale, Dear Ann, Dear Abby: The Unauthorized Biography of Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (New York, 1987).


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Why no mention of the sisters cousin Erma Bombeck? She was just as popular in the same amount of newspapers during the same timeframe, only Erma didn’t dole out advice but rather humorous antidotes on everyday life at that time, first thing to read would always be Ann, Abby, and Erma!

I grew up reading dear Abby, and then followed her books on etiquette, when preparing for a wedding or other social event. She had impeccable, taste, and always correct manners. So much good advice that we need today..

Although I did not have the opportunity to read Dear
Abby I did how ever grow up listening to and reading Ann Landers. I was born 1952. It is only now looking back at history and social change that we can appreciate the contributions these Iconic ladies made. Many thanks Ladies for what you contributed.

I was born in June of 1945 and grew up reading both Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren. I found Ann was actually more liberal than Abby was. I read both of them. It just depended on which newspaper I got whether I read Ann or Abby.
I thought quite highly of both of them.

With social media platforms making it easier for people to be less responsible or accountable for what they express, especially in regard to basic everyday social etiquette and respect; I wouldn't mind being reminded every once in a while, what good conduct looks and feels like.

please accept my condolences for your loss.Dear Abby has been my go to for ever. I miss you

I had not known when Ann Landers sister Pauline passed away.  They both were extremely brilliant giving their advice.  I had followed Ann's for many years, as I raised my children alone, since they were quite young.  She helped me at times.


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Birth of advice-givers Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren." (Viewed on March 3, 2024) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/jul/04/1918/ann-landers-and-abigail-van-buren>.