I’m writing today in tribute to Pauline Phillips who, under the name Abigail Van Buren, wrote the long-running “Dear Abby” advice column, and who died yesterday at the age of 94.
Her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, continues her legacy column and shares this today…
DEAR READERS: My beloved mother, Pauline Phillips, has passed away peacefully at the age of 94. Over the last quarter century Alzheimer’s disease had stolen away bit by bit her remarkable intellect, but she battled her illness with courage and dignity. She was my best friend who can never be replaced.
As those of you who have read this column when my mother wrote it know, Mama had a deeply caring heart, a lively sense of humor and a deep devotion to all of you. She tried every day to educate, enlighten and entertain, and to inspire civility and respect for others in the many thousands of people who sought her advice.
Her days in the office were spent answering letters and calling people who were in distress. Over the years, her list of sources, friends and contacts grew into a Rolodex that was legendary. The demands on her time and travel were many, but she was a loving mother, loyal wife, a caring friend and wonderful role model.
Mama was born on July 4, 1918, to Russian immigrant parents and was the youngest of four daughters. She often said that until she was 12 she thought all the fireworks were for her and her identical twin sister, Esther (Eppie).
She always had an interest in and deep concern for other people. After her marriage to my father, Morton Phillips, she put that interest into action and became president of her local mental health society and trained Gray Ladies for the American Red Cross. She honed her skills as a writer by writing a letter to her parents every day and to her sister-in-law who had contracted polio and spent a year in an iron lung.
“Dear Abby” is the world’s most widely syndicated column, having appeared in 1,400 newspapers with a daily readership of more than 110 million. The “Dear Abby” name was taken from Abigail in the Old Testament and “Van Buren” who was one of her favorite presidents.
Similar talents ran in her family. Her twin sister Esther “Eppie” Pauline Friedman Lederer, who died at age 83 in 2002, was the author of the newspaper column “Ann Landers.” The twins spent their growing-up years together. They dressed alike, both played the violin, they wrote gossip columns for their high school and college newspapers. Two days before their 21st birthday, they had a double wedding.
At age 37, Pauline Phillips called the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and told him she could write a better advice column than what the paper had. She was surprised when he agreed to interview her, telling him she was “an average, middle-aged housewife who had been happily married to the same man for 17 years and had reared two ‘reasonably normal’ teenagers.”
The editor “wanted only to get this self-styled journalist out of his office, so he asked her to write sample replies to some previously published columns. She did, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
The original Dear Abby is survived by her husband, Mort Phillips, they were married 73 years, amazing!
I’m inspired by this woman who gave people permission to share their stories and be open to advice. She was a true pioneer and trail-blazer. Her inspiration lives on!
Always classy in a fur!
With her husband Mort