Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Twin Sisters Give Advice

 

What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, IA, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

I can’t calculate those odds, but Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer came to be known as Ann Landers, and Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips followed quickly in her footsteps to become Abigail van Buren (Dear Abby). They were born on July 4, 1918 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Abraham and Rebecca Friedman:

They moved to Sioux City, Iowa, in 1910, giving birth to Helen and then Dorothy soon after. Like many Russian Jewish immigrants of that time, the family slowly earned enough money to leave the poorer sections of the city, first by peddling chickens from a pushcart and then, by 1911, by amassing enough earnings to buy into a grocery store. When Pauline was born, her parents owned a small house. Her father became part owner of a movie and vaudeville theater when she was in her early teens. Active in the Jewish community of Sioux City, Abraham Friedman’s civic stature grew as he acquired other theaters and diversified his business interests.

In 1938 the twin sisters had a double wedding in Sioux City.

Given that I have tried to cure myself of giving advice, I envy these two women who were actually paid to give theirs. Does it get any better than that?

Eventually, the sisters were hired within three months of each other as advice columnists. Esther, known as “Eppie,” won a contest to replace the writer of the original “Ask Ann Landers” column for the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955. Her sister Pauline, nicknamed “Popo,” assisted her sister in writing her column. But she found her own path:

When the Phillipses moved to Hillsborough, California, from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in 1955, Pauline contacted an editor with the San Francisco Chronicle to express her displeasure with their newly established Molly Mayfield lovelorn column. She offered the Chronicle a radical departure from the paper’s previous features. Her column was to be humorous, helpful, and filled with one-liners. The paper hired her and she rapidly became a success, adopting the name Abigail Van Buren. Pauline contracted for the rights to the names Abigail Van Buren and Dear Abby, a move that gave her great control over her column and a large share of its profits.

Both sisters experienced their share of controversy. Esther wrote a column where she told readers that they shouldn’t throw rice at weddings, because birds might eat it and explode. Apparently milled rice isn’t harmful to birds. (Who knew?!) Newspapers occasionally threatened not to print her columns which they considered controversial. And even though the sisters tried to avoid acrimony, they found themselves competing for publication in newspapers. Life magazine published an article about their dispute in 1958. They had a public reconciliation on their 25th wedding anniversaries, but it’s unclear whether they laid the dispute to rest.

Still, these women changed the face of the advice column, and were widely popular:

“In 1990 alone, advice columnist “Dear Abby” and her staff received over 55,000 letters from men and women of all ages, classes, nationalities, sexual orientations, and religions. Both spoke openly about anti-Semitism, sexism and racism.”

When Esther died in 2002, she chose not to have anyone continue the Ann Landers column. Pauline (Abby) was assisted by her daughter, Jeanne, in her later years, and Jeanne took over writing the column. Her mother passed away in 2013.

Both Esther and Pauline contributed greatly to the cultural discourse in this country and worldwide. Now if I could just find someone to pay me for my own advice…

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There are 31 comments.

  1. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn: What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, Iowa, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

    The post is interesting and I did not know Ann Landers and Dear Abbey were two different people, but…the odds question. It’s not as if these two are just two pieces of cosmic space dust, floating around the vast reaches of the universe, and find themselves settling on the same bit of shelf in your library. They were born on the same day, they are twins, they were married on the same day, they likely did everything together growing up and in to young adulthood. They likely have similar personalities and think alike. What are the odds that they wouldn’t end up having similar careers? The odds of being famous of course is a different question. They aren’t that famous. I would suggest that most people under the age of 30 have never heard of either of them. And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Anyway…sorry I’m in a mood this morning…

    • #1
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:32 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Arahant Member

    Spin (View Comment):
    And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Do not assume that everyone is as ignorant as yourself.

    • #2
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:42 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Spin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, Iowa, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

    The post is interesting and I did not know Ann Landers and Dear Abbey were two different people, but…the odds question. It’s not as if these two are just two pieces of cosmic space dust, floating around the vast reaches of the universe, and find themselves settling on the same bit of shelf in your library. They were born on the same day, they are twins, they were married on the same day, they likely did everything together growing up and in to young adulthood. They likely have similar personalities and think alike. What are the odds that they wouldn’t end up having similar careers? The odds of being famous of course is a different question. They aren’t that famous. I would suggest that most people under the age of 30 have never heard of either of them. And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Anyway…sorry I’m in a mood this morning…

    That’s okay, @spin. Actually every thing you say is mostly true. But I think they are famous. I’m going to guess that most men have heard of them, and even more women have read them! We at least could learn that our own lives were much more blessed than the people who wrote to them! Hope the day goes better for you . . .

    • #3
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:44 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Do not assume that everyone is as ignorant as yourself.

    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    • #4
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:44 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Spin (View Comment):
    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    At least you know how to drive a tank.

    • #5
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:47 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    At least you know how to drive a tank.

    . . . and you never know when tank driving might come in handy! Especially in these times!

    • #6
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:48 AM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, Iowa, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

    The post is interesting and I did not know Ann Landers and Dear Abbey were two different people, but…the odds question. It’s not as if these two are just two pieces of cosmic space dust, floating around the vast reaches of the universe, and find themselves settling on the same bit of shelf in your library. They were born on the same day, they are twins, they were married on the same day, they likely did everything together growing up and in to young adulthood. They likely have similar personalities and think alike. What are the odds that they wouldn’t end up having similar careers? The odds of being famous of course is a different question. They aren’t that famous. I would suggest that most people under the age of 30 have never heard of either of them. And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Anyway…sorry I’m in a mood this morning…

    That’s okay, @spin. Actually every thing you say is mostly true. But I think they are famous. I’m going to guess that most men have heard of them, and even more women have read them! We at least could learn that our own lives were much more blessed than the people who wrote to them! Hope the day goes better for you . . .

    No, I’m not saying they aren’t famous. They clearly all. Most people over 30 would recognize the two names. I’m just saying that most people probably don’t know who Pauline and Esther Friedman are.

    • #7
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:49 AM PST
    • Like
  8. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    At least you know how to drive a tank.

    One of my many talents. Another: thinking poorly of you.

    • #8
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:50 AM PST
    • 1 like
  9. Bartholomew Xerxes Ogilvie, Jr. Coolidge

    It’s interesting that “Dear Abby” pretty much became the archetypal advice column, even though her sister’s column was first. Just goes to show the value of marketing and a memorable name.

    Ann Landers is the Hydrox to Dear Abby’s Oreo.

    • #9
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:52 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  10. OldPhil Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    At least you know how to drive a tank.

    . . . and you never know when tank driving might come in handy! Especially in these times!

    Yeah, like when Joe Biden or Eric Swallwell comes to get your AR-15.

    • #10
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:52 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. OldPhil Coolidge

    The Dear Abby column in our local paper now done by her daughter is pretty cringeworthy. I read it when I need a good laugh in the morning. Jeanne is no Pauline.

    • #11
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:56 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Spin (View Comment):
    If a person were as ignorant as me, they’d be lucky. I know a lot of stuff. Not all of it useful, mind you.

    At least you know how to drive a tank.

    . . . and you never know when tank driving might come in handy! Especially in these times!

    If I’m honest, I suspect it’ll never come in handy. Once in a job interview, the CFO asked me “So you were a tanker in the Army. How did that prepare you for civilian life?” I said “Being the Army taught me that there are things you have to do in life that you won’t like. But you don’t have to like ’em, you just have to do ’em.” I thought of that bit on the spot. Like I had no idea up until that moment what my time in the Army had actually taught me. But I said it with conviction. And yeah, I got that job!

    And…the post is hijacked by comment 12! So Ricochet…

    • #12
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:57 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  13. Stad Thatcher

    I don’t don’t why I read the column. Maybe it’s because some of the stories are so bizarre, and the advice even weirder. No question a lot of the advice is leftist . . .

    • #13
    • February 13, 2020, at 6:59 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Rodin Member

    Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther? That must have been confusing!

    • #14
    • February 13, 2020, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 1 like
  15. EB Thatcher
    EB

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    The Dear Abby column in our local paper now done by her daughter is pretty cringeworthy. I read it when I need a good laugh in the morning. Jeanne is no Pauline.

    Slate has a column called Dear Prudence. Some years ago it was written by Ann Landers’ daughter and I thought she was much better than her mother. Later it was written by Emily Yoffe and was also quite good. It is now authored by Daniel Ortberg (nee Mallory Ortberg.) It’s overall not a bad column. But because Mallory, formerly a lesbian who became Daniel, a trans-man, a large segment of the letters have to do with LGBTQxyz issues which are not that interesting to me.

    • #15
    • February 13, 2020, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  16. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Susan Quinn: Now if I could just find someone to pay me for my own advice . . .

    Have you considered a job in consulting?

    • #16
    • February 13, 2020, at 7:37 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  17. Bob Wainwright Member

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther? That must have been confusing!

    Yeah, like what was the chance of their names being so close to each other??? Probably about the same as Lou Gehrig dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

    • #17
    • February 13, 2020, at 8:38 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther? That must have been confusing!

    That’s why they gave them nicknames! Eppie and Popo!

    • #18
    • February 13, 2020, at 8:57 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Now if I could just find someone to pay me for my own advice . . .

    Have you considered a job in consulting?

    Oh, I forgot! I was a consultant! As the mind slips away . . . but I’m retired. Now what?!

    • #19
    • February 13, 2020, at 8:59 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Now if I could just find someone to pay me for my own advice . . .

    Have you considered a job in consulting?

    I worked once for a company designed, created, and ran Medicare supplement insurance polices. Our customers were hospitals, mostly in the mid-west and Texas. Once I was talking to one of the execs, and I said something like “Yeah but that’s not what we do, right?” I don’t remember the subject, but it struck me that it fell out of our core competency. He said “Ken, we are a consulting company. That means people pay us to tell them how to do stuff. So, whatever someone will pay use to tell them how to do is what we do.”

    • #20
    • February 13, 2020, at 9:07 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  21. Manny Member

    I always found this incredibly coincidental too. Must have been something in the mother’s milk. ;)

    When they were both alive and in the newspapers, I always found Ann Landers to be more insightful than Dear Abby. But I was not an every day reader of advice columns. Anyone have a particular favorite between the two?

    • #21
    • February 13, 2020, at 9:46 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Manny (View Comment):

    I always found this incredibly coincidental too. Must have been something in the mother’s milk. ;)

    When they were both alive and in the newspapers, I always found Ann Landers to be more insightful than Dear Abby. But I was not an every day reader of advice columns. Anyone have a particular favorite between the two?

    We moved so often and changed newspapers that I couldn’t differentiate. And then I gradually stopped reading them. I don’t know if it was their liberal views or that I wanted to spend my time reading other things. Or that I started to work on crossword puzzles!

    • #22
    • February 13, 2020, at 9:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  23. Manny Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I always found this incredibly coincidental too. Must have been something in the mother’s milk. ;)

    When they were both alive and in the newspapers, I always found Ann Landers to be more insightful than Dear Abby. But I was not an every day reader of advice columns. Anyone have a particular favorite between the two?

    We moved so often and changed newspapers that I couldn’t differentiate. And then I gradually stopped reading them. I don’t know if it was their liberal views or that I wanted to spend my time reading other things. Or that I started to work on crossword puzzles!

    Were they as Liberal back then as the current columns are now? I seemed to remember Ann Landers giving good family oriented advice. But I could be wrong.

    • #23
    • February 13, 2020, at 9:51 AM PST
    • 1 like
  24. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn

    Manny (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I always found this incredibly coincidental too. Must have been something in the mother’s milk. ;)

    When they were both alive and in the newspapers, I always found Ann Landers to be more insightful than Dear Abby. But I was not an every day reader of advice columns. Anyone have a particular favorite between the two?

    We moved so often and changed newspapers that I couldn’t differentiate. And then I gradually stopped reading them. I don’t know if it was their liberal views or that I wanted to spend my time reading other things. Or that I started to work on crossword puzzles!

    Were they as Liberal back then as the current columns are now? I seemed to remember Ann Landers giving good family oriented advice. But I could be wrong.

    Since I haven’t read them recently, I can’t say.

    • #24
    • February 13, 2020, at 9:53 AM PST
    • 1 like
  25. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Spin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: What were the odds that twin sisters, Jews raised in Sioux City, Iowa, would achieve international fame as givers of advice?

    The post is interesting and I did not know Ann Landers and Dear Abbey were two different people, but…the odds question. It’s not as if these two are just two pieces of cosmic space dust, floating around the vast reaches of the universe, and find themselves settling on the same bit of shelf in your library. They were born on the same day, they are twins, they were married on the same day, they likely did everything together growing up and in to young adulthood. They likely have similar personalities and think alike. What are the odds that they wouldn’t end up having similar careers? The odds of being famous of course is a different question. They aren’t that famous. I would suggest that most people under the age of 30 have never heard of either of them. And you and I, though we’d heard the pen names, had no idea who they actually were (are?) and wouldn’t know them if we bumped in to them on the street.

    Anyway…sorry I’m in a mood this morning…

    Not to mention they both were bestowed the difficult and rare ability to give free advice!

    Dear Abby,

    How do I stop joking in Internet forums? Sometimes I’m unable to hold back, often causing a loss of ‘friends’ and hard feelings of online associates. Several times, moderators become involved, and when I’m misunderstood for being serious, I lose respect for my fellow posters.

    – Compulsive Jester in Jersey

    PS I heard a lot of these letters were just made up and didn’t come from real people and that the term “asking for a friend” was almost always untrue to the point where it became a cliche. True, or just malarkey?

    • #25
    • February 13, 2020, at 1:28 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  26. Skyler Coolidge

    I used to read them alongside my time reading the comics. I thought they were foolish to think people writing to a newspaper for advice would really take the advice.

    But times were different then. We didn’t have the internet, so people were much more isolated. The strange problems revealed in their columns were like an alien world to me.

    My recollection is that I thought one was better than the other. It’s been too long to be sure, but I think Ann Landers wrote better answers than Dear Abby who was far too prone to be curt and not very helpful with her short answers.

    I read them because I read just about anything I could find, but I can’t say I thought much of the genre.

    • #26
    • February 13, 2020, at 1:40 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. Richard Finlay Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther? That must have been confusing!

    That’s why they gave them nicknames! Eppie and Popo!

    Esther Pauline -> EP ->Eppie. Easy to understand this one.

    Pauline Esther -> PE -> PoPo. Why not Peepee? Oh….

    • #27
    • February 13, 2020, at 3:10 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  28. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Susan Quinn: Now if I could just find someone to pay me for my own advice…

    Priceless.

    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the February 2020 Group Writing Theme: “Advice.” Stop by soon, our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #28
    • February 13, 2020, at 5:41 PM PST
    • 1 like
  29. Sandy Member

    I thought Ann was much better than her twin. Rather sharp tongued, but in a good way. Perhaps a forerunner to Judge Judy. Everyone in Chicago read her column in the 50’s, doubtless because she upheld a pretty common morality and was bluntly humorous, and she probably sold a lot of copies of the Sun-Times. She was known for urging wives to forgive their husbands’ affairs, though I don’t remember her counseling men to forgive their wives’ affairs. I’m guessing that subject was too shocking for those days, at least in most newspapers, which were expected to be suitable for young people to read. Saving marriages was high on her list.

    • #29
    • February 13, 2020, at 7:58 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  30. James Lileks Contributor

    I’ve read a fair amount of early Ann, and the lady was peppery

    • #30
    • February 13, 2020, at 10:41 PM PST
    • 2 likes