"Dear Abby" Columnist Passes Away

Dear Abby advice columnist Pauline Phillips dies from Alzheimers disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) She was the mother/sister/grandmother/aunt/best friend that millions relied on for advice. Now dear "Abigail Van Buren," whose real name was Pauline Phillips, has died.

Phillips became known the world over for her Dear Abby advice column. It first appeared in 1956 and was read daily by over 110 million people, reported CNN.

She passed away from Alzheimer's disease Wednesday in Minneapolis. She was 94 years old.

"Ask a doctor how to care for loved ones with Alzheimer's."

Phillips wrote Dear Abby exclusively by herself until 2000. That year, her daughter Jeanne began helping her write the columns, and the two shared the column for two more years.

In August 2002, Pauline Phillips' family announced she had Alzheimer's, and she retired from the column while her daughter took it over full time.

According to CNN's report from the syndication service Universal Uclick, "Dear Abby" has appeared in 1,400 newspapers, making it the most widely syndicated column in the world.

Phillips got her big break in 1955 when, as a 37-year-old wife and mother of two teenagers, she contacted the San Francisco Chronicle's editor to say she could write a better advice column than what they were printing.

He interviewed Phillips and then dismissively gave her a couple sample letters to respond to. Her first column appeared in the Chronicle on January 9, 1956.

For more than four decades, Phillips gave advice on marriage, child rearing, careers, friendships and many other aspects of life under the pen name Abigail Van Buren. She chose "Abigail" from the wise Old Testament woman and "Van Buren" from the President she admired.

Phillips did not shy away from controversial topics either, addressing everything from women's rights to mental illness stigma to AIDS to organ donation to international human rights issues.

Phillips' twin sister, Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer, became famous in her own right for the advice column "Ann Landers."

In a statement quoted by CNN, Phillips' daughter Jeanne said, "I have lost my mother, my mentor and my best friend. 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."

Phillips is survived by her husband of 73 years, Mort Phillips and her daughter as well as four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 16, 2013
Last Updated:
January 18, 2013