Pauline Phillips, the woman behind the famous "Dear Abby" advice column, has died. She was 94.
Phillips died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, her rep told TMZ.
"I have lost my mother, my mentor and my best friend," her daughter Jeanne Phillips, who took over "Dear Abby," told the site. "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."
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Phillips started her journalism career at Morningside College, where she and her twin sister, Eppie Lederer — who would go on to pen the "Ask Ann Landers" advice column — wrote for the school paper. After moving to the Bay Area, Phillips, then 37 and a stay-at-home housewife, called the editor of The San Francisco Chronicle in 1956 and audaciously told him that she could write a better advice column than the paper's current one.
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"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," her son, Eddie Phillips, who died in 2011, told ABC News
in 2010. "That knocked them off their feet."
Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren — chosen for the Old Testament's Abigail and the eighth president Martin Van Buren — Phillips became an instant reader favorite with her flippant tone. Over a four-decade career, she doled out advice on topics ranging from familial discord to gun control. "Dear Abby" was syndicated in more than 1,200 newspapers and read by 95 million people daily. It permeated pop culture, with numerous TV shows and films referencing the column, including All in the Family
, Three's Company
, Dog Day Afternoon
Phillips' success came shortly after Lederer succeeded Ruth Crowley as the "Ask Ann Landers" columnist, which caused an estrangement between the sisters. They publicly reconciled in 1964, but continued to have a contentious relationship and did not speak again until shortly before Lederer's death from bone cancer in 2002.
That same year, Phillips retired, leaving "Dear Abby" to Jeanne, who had been co-writing it since 1987 and was co-host of their CBS radio show The Dear Abby Show
, which ended in 1973. Jeanne had been heavily assisting her mother since the mid-'90s, when Phillips first started showing signs of Alzheimer's.
In addition to the column, Phillips also published six advice books.
Besides Jeanne, Phillips is survived by her husband 73 years, Mort Phillips; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.