California housewife Pauline Phillips wowed writers for almost 60 years with her advice, twists on situations and valued perspectives. She has died at the age of 94 in Minneapolis. Universal Uclick announced her death on its website. Mrs. Phillips suffered from Alzheimer's for many years.
Under the pseudonym “Abigail Van Buren,” Mrs. Phillips went from being an ordinary housewife to becoming America’s psychological counselor. Her syndicated column was read in more than 1,200 newspapers. It was read by 95 million people per day, who enjoyed her advice and guidance. It all started when she began writing for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“They gave her a bunch of letters, thinking that, that they would never see her again — and she immediately took all of the letters to my dad’s nearby office and whipped out answers and had answers back the same day. That knocked them off their feet,” her son Eddie Phillips told "Good Morning America" in 2004.
When referring to her career, Phillips said, “I don’t pretend to be an authority on journalism or on human relations. I just happen to be a very happy, a very healthy, a very lucky young woman with a fascinating hobby.”
Some examples printed in the New York Times are:
: My wife sleeps in the raw. Then she showers, brushes her teeth and fixes our breakfast — still in the buff. We’re newlyweds 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 O.K. with me. But tell her to put on an apron when she’s frying bacon.
Dear Abby: Are birth control pills deductible? — Bertie
Dear Bertie: Only if they don’t work.
Phillips is also well known for her highly publicized public rivalry with her identical twin sister, Ann Landers, who died in 2002 at the age of 83.
Generations that are now accustomed to using the Internet have used the phrase, "Dear Abby," without really understanding the true meaning. Musicians including Heart, the Dead Kennedys and John Prine have written songs called "Dear Abby."
According to the New York Times, “Even now, Dear Abby’s reach is vast. (Mrs. Phillips’s daughter, Jeanne Phillips, took over the column unofficially in 1987 and officially in 2000.) According to its syndicator, Universal Uclick, Dear Abby appears in about 1,400 newspapers worldwide, has a daily readership of more than 110 million — in print and on its interactive Web site, dearabby.com — and receives more than 10,000 letters and e-mails a week.”
She had a fascinating hobby, indeed.