Pauline Friedman Phillips, the “”Dear Abby” newspaper columnist who dished out advice to millions of confused, troubled and lovesick readers in America and around the world, has died at the age of 94.
Phillips, the daughter of Jewish immigrants whose twin sister Esther wrote the rival “Ask Ann Landers” column, died in Minneapolis on Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, said a statement released by the syndicator of the “Dear Abby” column, Universal Uclick.
“My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change. I will honor her memory every day by continuing this legacy,” her daughter Jeanne Phillips said in a statement.
The “Dear Abby” column, now written by Jeanne Phillips, is the world’s most widely syndicated, having run in some 1,400 newspapers and with a daily readership of more than 110 million, according to Universal Uclick.
Phillips’ family announced in August 2002 that Pauline had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, Pauline Phillips handled the “Dear Abby” column for 31 years before bringing in Jeanne for help in a joint venture, and eventually handing off all of it to her daughter in 2002 .
She was also the decades-long rival of her twin sister, Esther Lederer, better known as the columnist Ann Landers. While the sisters wrote reams of advice on mending relationships, their own became so embittered that they did not speak for many years.
In Pauline Phillips’ prime, some 25,000 letters per week arrived at her office in Beverly Hills, California, with readers asking Abby for help with their insecurities, frustrations, sex lives and hundreds of other topics. She would respond with advice from experts, common sense or quips.
Her influence spread far and wide. In 1987 when “Dear Abby” ran a survey asking readers to send a postcard or letter stating if they had ever cheated on their mates, nearly 250,000 pieces of mail were received, Universal Uclick said.
In 1992, the column asked readers to say where they were on the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. More than 300,000 people responded.
“”Abby” was born Pauline Esther Friedman, 17 minutes after “”Ann,” whose real name was Esther Pauline Friedman, in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918. Pauline was known in the family as Popo and Esther was Eppie.