Dear Abby

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Dear Abby star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame memorializing the Dear Abby radio show

Dear Abby is an American advice column founded in 1956 by Pauline Phillips under the pen name "Abigail Van Buren" and carried on today by her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now owns the legal rights to the pen name.


According to Pauline Phillips, she came up with the pen name Abigail Van Buren by combining the name of Biblical figure Abigail in the Book of Samuel, with the last name of former US president Martin Van Buren.

The column was syndicated by the McNaught Syndicate from 1956 until 1966, when it moved to Universal Press Syndicate. Dear Abby's current syndication company claims the column is "well-known for sound, compassionate advice, delivered with the straightforward style of a good friend."[1]

By 1987, over 1,200 newspapers ran the column.[2]

Abby was born Pauline Esther Friedman, and her twin sister was born Esther Pauline Friedman. Abby was known as Popo, and her sister was Eppie[3] (a nickname from E.P.).[4]

Ask Ann Landers[edit]

Pauline Phillips started her Dear Abby column a few months after her twin sister, Eppie Lederer, took over the Ask Ann Landers column created by Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943. Lederer wrote the column until 2002. This produced a rivalry and lengthy estrangement between the two sisters.[5]

On February 13, 1987, the Chicago Tribune announced that the Ann Landers column was moving to the Tribune, which had published the Dear Abby column for years. The Tribune ran both columns, Landers every day and Abby six days a week.[2]

After Lederer's death, on June 22, 2002,[6] the spirit of the column was continued by Lederer's editors, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, under the name Annie's Mailbox; it began running on July 28, 2002, in approximately 800 newspapers.[7][8][9]

Annie's Mailbox was syndicated in numerous newspapers throughout the US until June 30, 2016. On that date, Mitchell and Sugar wrote: "...we say farewell. It is time for us to step aside and take advantage of opportunities neither of us has had the time for until now." They also introduced columnist Annie Lane, known as Dear Annie.[10]

In comparing the columns written by each of the sisters, the Jewish Women's Archive wrote that "Both columns were characterized by a straightforward tone, practical advice, and a firm but modern moral sensibility" and that "both women used humor, including sarcasm and one-liners, in their responses."[6]

Change in writer[edit]

Pauline Phillips wrote the column herself until 1987, at which time her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, began writing the column with her. In December 2000, the elder Phillips wrote a column identifying her daughter as her "co-creator" and added, "I will continue to work on this column until my Maker calls me home."[11] Twenty months later, the Phillips family revealed that Pauline was suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[12]

Although the change in authorship took place in 2000, the official statement—which included adding "Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips" to the bottom of each column—was not made until July 2002.[13][14]

Pauline Phillips died on January 16, 2013, aged 94.[15]


Dear Abby, which has a readership estimated at 110 million[16] and which The New York Times described as "a staple in American households for decades,"[17] has been accused of being out of step with changing times. A 2016 column seemed to place the blame on a teen girl who had been sexually assaulted,[18] and a 2018 column, which said that traditional Western names are preferable for newborns with half-Indian heritage, gave rise to accusations of xenophobia.[19][20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Dear Abby". uExpress ( Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Advice Columnist Ann Landers Leaves Chicago Sun-Times for rival Tribune". The Telegraph. Associated Press. February 14, 1987. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  3. ^ Langer, Emily (January 17, 2013). "Pauline Phillips, better known as 'Dear Abby,' dies at 94". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  4. ^ David Rambo (2006). The Lady with All the Answers. p. 10. ISBN 0822221632.
  5. ^ Judd, Robin. "Ann Landers biography". Jewish Virtual Library.
  6. ^ a b "Birth of advice-givers Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren". Jewish Women's Archive.
  7. ^ "Ann Landers Last Column". CBS News. July 27, 2002. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  8. ^ Astor, Dave (January 13, 2003). "Who's Answering 'Annie's Mailbox'?". Editor & Publisher.
  9. ^ Potempa, Philip (August 10, 2012). "Annie's Mailbox syndicated advice columnists celebrate a decade of answering life's questions". The Times of Northwest Indiana. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  10. ^ Mitchell, Kathy; Sugar, Marcy (June 30, 2016). "Living Our Lives to the Fullest". Creators Syndicate. Retrieved June 30, 2016.
  11. ^ "Wife Makes Chilling Discovery of Husband's Online Child Porn - Dear Abby".
  12. ^ "Dear Abby creator has Alzheimer's, family announces". Chicago Tribune.
  13. ^ Josh Freed (July 18, 2002). "'Dear Abby' Daughter Takes Over". Editor & Publisher.
  14. ^ "Dear Abby creator has Alzheimer's, family announces". Chicago Tribune. August 7, 2002. Last month, Jeanne Phillips began taking sole credit for the column.
  15. ^ Martinez, Michael (March 7, 2013). "Pauline Phillips, longtime Dear Abby advice columnist, dies at 94". CNN.
  16. ^ "Dear Abby column says 'breakdown in communication' led to girl's rape". Chicago Tribune.
  17. ^ John Eligon (October 18, 2018). "No 'Foreign' Names for Children, Dear Abby Advised. Furious Parents Replied". The New York Times.
  18. ^ "Dear Abby column says 'breakdown in communication' led to girl's rape". Chicago Tribune.
  19. ^ "Couple Must Choose Between Practical and Unusual Names for Children - Dear Abby".
  20. ^ Eligon, John (October 18, 2018). "No 'Foreign' Names for Children, Dear Abby Advised. Furious Parents Replied". The New York Times.

External links[edit]