'Dear Abby' Advice Columnist Dies at 94
After suffering from a long battle with Alzheimer's, Pauline Friedman Phillips—better known as Abigail Van Buren, the 'Dear Abby' advice columnist—died Wednesday in Minneapolis at the age of 94.
Phillips became a cultural icon with her long-running column that started in 1956, attracting 95 million loyal readers from around the world with her, by and large, irreverent advice. And no topic was off limits: She unabashedly accepted gays, applauded men who used Viagra, and took an open-minded approach to working mothers.
"I think it’s good to have a woman work if she wants to and doesn’t leave her children unattended — if she has a reliable person to care for them," she wrote. "Kids still need someone to watch them until they are mature enough to make responsible decisions."
But with her fame came competition. Phillips' rival? Her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, better known as advice columnist Ann Landers, who took on a more folksy, good-natured tone compared to her sister's sassiness. Although the two were at odds with each other as young adults, they became close in later years.
Around the time that Lederer died in 2002 at the age of 83, Phillips' family announced their mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over the 'Dear Abby' baton from then on.
A modest housewife by trade, Phillips began her foray into the advice business at the age of 37. "I don’t pretend to be an authority on journalism or on human relations," she had said at the start of her career. "I just happen to be a very happy, a very healthy, a very lucky young woman with a fascinating hobby."
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