Pauline Phillips, who wrote under the pseudonym Abigail Van Buren, transformed a venerable newspaper staple for lovelorns into a forum on life, manners, social change and whatever struck her as amusing. Her Dear Abby column was read by millions in 1,400 papers at its peak.
Phillips, who died last Wednesday at age 94, became a byword for snappy personal advice. So did her sister Esther Lederer, who wrote a similar advice column as Ann Landers.
Dear Abby, which Phillips began in 1956, had a staggering reach. Questions she would pose to readers ("Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?") could spark a quarter-million responses.
Her column reflected American mores yet often ran ahead of them. In 1970, she published a reader's letter asking whether homosexuality was a disease as the American Psychological Association had said at the time. "It is the inability to love at all which I consider an emotional illness," she replied.
While Phillips and her sister didn't invent the advice column they came closest to perfecting it. Esther Pauline Friedman and Pauline Esther Friedman were identical twins born in Sioux City, Iowa, on the Fourth of July. Life magazine in 1958 said the sisters were "the most widely read and most quoted women in the world."
— Wall Street Journal
The Best of Dear Abby's Advice
Dear Abby: What would you do with a man who refuses to use a deodorant, seldom bathes, and doesn't even own a toothbrush?" -- Concerned
Dear Concerned: Absolutely nothing
Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? — Bertie
Dear Bertie: Only if they don't work
Dear Abby: Two men who claim to be father and adopted son just bought an old mansion across the street and fixed it up. We notice a very suspicious mixture of company coming and going at all hours — blacks, whites, Orientals, women who look like men and men who look like women ... This has always been considered one of the finest sections of San Francisco, and these weirdos are giving it a bad name. How can we improve the neighbourhood? — Nob Hill Residents
Dear Residents: You could move.
Dear Abby: My boyfriend is going to be 20 years old next month. I'd like to give him something nice for his birthday. What do you think he'd like? — Carol
Dear Carol: Nevermind what he'd like, give him a tie.
Dear Abby: I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Have you any suggestions? — M.J.B.
Dear M.J.B.: Yes. Run for a public office.
Dear Abby: What inspires you most to write? — Ted
Dear Ted: The Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Dear Abby: I've been going with this girl for a year. How can I get her to say yes? — Don
Dear Don: What's the question?
Dear Abby: Our son married a girl when he was in the service. They were married in February and she had an 8 1/2-pound baby girl in August. She said the baby was premature. Can an 8 1/ 2-pound baby be this premature? — Wanting to Know
Dear Wanting: The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.
Dear Abby: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We're newly weds and there are just the two of us, so I suppose there's really nothing wrong with it. What do you think? — Ed
Dear Ed: It's OK with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she's frying bacon.