Pauline Esther Philips, better known as the advice columnist Abigail Van Buren or “Dear Abby”, died on Jan 16th 2013.
Advice columnists, many of whom are women, are often dismissed as being rather trite, lacking in true writing skills. I don’t believe that’s true, and certainly not in the case of the well-loved “Dear Abby” column. Here are some of her pearls of wisdom:-
- “People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.”
- “Wisdom doesn’t automatically come with old age. Nothing does — except wrinkles.”
- “It is almost impossible to throw dirt on someone without getting a little on yourself.”
- “It’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else.
This high level of wit and insight is perhaps on a par with Dorothy Parker .
Pauline Phillips career as an advice columnist began after she approached the San Francisco Chronicle in 1956, and maintained she could write a better column than the one they already had. She’d taken a journalism course in college, but her previous 17yrs had been spent as a housewife raising two children. At its peak, “Dear Abby” was syndicated in 1,200 newspapers and reached more than 90 million people worldwide. Sadly, Pauline Phillips developed Alzheimer’s disease. The column continued until 2002, when her daughter Jeanne took over the column and continues to write it today.
During her years as the columnist, according to the syndicate, Pauline Phillips advocated “equal rights for women, minorities, people with mental illness and those who are physically challenged,” and her column “promoted AIDS awareness and education, hospice care, the living will, organ donation and also raised awareness about gender apartheid suffered by women in Afghanistan,”
Her response to her queries, though at times lengthy, were often punchy quips:
“DEAR ABBY : Are birth control pills deductible?’ – KAY
“DEAR KAY – Only if they don’t work”
She also had her detractors:
“DEAR ABBY: Between you and me , I think the people who write to you are either morons or just plain stupid ” – HENRY
“DEAR HENRY – Which are you?”
To maintain a column for almost fifty years is a fantastic achievement – not bad for someone who’s profession is tarred with the reputation of ‘little skill’. FYI Pauline’s twin sister was Ann Landers (real name Esther Pauline Lederer,) who wrote a rival advice column for the Chicago-Sun Times. Esther died in 2002.
Pauline Phillips was 94 when she died. In her case, age truly did bring wisdom.
Do you have any favorite “Dear Abby” quotes or memories?
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