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July 2: Ann Landers and Dear Abby

Lawrence Bush
July 2, 2010

ap-photo-abby-and-annTwin sisters Pauline and Esther Friedman had a double wedding on this date in 1938 in their Sioux City, Iowa synagogue. Esther (Eppie Lederer) went on to become “Ann Landers,” the advice columnist, debuting on October 16, 1955, while Pauline (Popo Phillips) became “Abigail Van Buren” (“Dear Abby”), debuting three months later. Their competition became intense enough to be reported in Life magazine in 1958, and while they shared a 25th wedding anniversary celebration, the sisters were estranged rivals for much of their careers. “Ann Landers” died in 2002 at age 83. Among the best-known of her opinions were her early support for civil rights for gay people; among the best-known urban legends she promoted was that psychopaths were putting “razor blades and poison” in Halloween treats. “Abigail Van Buren” was sidelined by Alzheimer’s Disease in 1995 (her daughter took over the column). Abby’s opinions included defenses of women’s reproductive rights and of civil rights for African-Americans and other minority groups.
“The best index to a person’s character is (a) how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can’t fight back.” —Abigail Van Buren

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.