MINNEAPOLIS: Pauline Friedman Phillips, who as Dear Abby dispensed snappy, sometimes saucy advice on love, marriage and meddling mothers-in-law to millions of newspaper readers around the world and opened the way for the likes of Dr. Ruth, Dr. Phil and Oprah, has died. She was 94.
Phillips died Wednesday in Minneapolis after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, said Gene Willis, a publicist for the Universal Uclick syndicate.
“My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change,” her daughter, Jeanne Phillips, who now writes the column, said in a statement.
Private funeral services were held Thursday, Willis said.
The long-running “Dear Abby” column first appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1956. Mother and daughter started sharing the byline in 2000, and Jeanne Phillips took over in 2002, when the family announced Pauline Phillips had Alzheimer’s disease.
Pauline Phillips wrote under the name Abigail Van Buren. Her column competed for decades with the advice of Ann Landers, written by her twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer, who died in 2002. Their relationship was stormy in their early adult years, but they later regained the closeness they had growing up in Sioux City, Iowa.
The two columns differed in style. Ann Landers responded to questioners with homey, detailed advice. Abby’s replies were often flippant one-liners.
Phillips admitted that her advice changed over the years. When she started writing the column, she was reluctant to advocate divorce.
“I found out through my readers that sometimes the best thing they can do is part. If a man or woman is a constant cheater, the situation can be intolerable,’’ said Phillips, who is survived by her husband of 73 years, Morton.
As the civil rights movement flourished in the 1960s, Dear Abby took more liberal stances, often way ahead of her time. Phillips attended a national transsexual conference in 1975. By the early 1980s she was openly supportive of gays and lesbians.
The San Francisco Chronicle contributed to this report.