Abigail Van Buren (born Pauline Friedman Phillips) was an award winning American columnist and radio show host who dedicated much of her life to helping others through her iconic “Dear Abby” advice. Dubbed the “pioneering queen of salty advice,” Phillips’ “Dear Abby” was full of heart, laced with spice, and offered her best wit to ensure everyone had support in reaching through the issues they faced on the journey of life. Though she passed away on January 16, 2013, her sharp shooting humor, infinite wisdom, and endless suggestions for improving manners and the quality of life through choices is a legacy which touched millions of readers.
Pauline’s exemplary dedication to her unique craft was, in her words “fulfilling exciting, and incredibly rewarding.” To honor over four decades of her work, her humor, her wit, and her legendary ability to shed light on others' problems, here are the 10 Best Dear Abby Quotes:
1. “Don’t worry. My dog has been chasing cars for years, but if he ever caught one, he wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
2. “Never advise anyone to go to war or to get married.”
3. “A bad habit never disappears miraculously; it’s an undo-it-yourself project.”
4. “People who fight fire with fire usually end up with ashes.”
5. “Marriage must be permanent even when disturbed by masculine lunacy.”
6. “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good.”
7. “If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
8. “The less you talk the more you’re listened to.”
9. “Three strikes and a man is out, no matter how good his pitches.”
10. “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we would all be millionaires.”
As a woman who held family and marriage in the highest light, much of Pauline’s upbringing centered around values, manners, and most importantly, humor. Phillips’ younger years predisposed her and her identical twin sister, Esther Pauline, to their central focus and future occupations. As the youngest of four children born to Russian/Jewish immigrants Abraham and Rebecca Friedman, while growing up in Sioux City, Pauline’s home was full of people who sought advice from her parents and this paved the path for both twins. These traits were also passed on to Esther who later grew up to become better known as Ann Landers. With a family which described Pauline as having the innate ability to listen paired with a very distinct personality, Pauline later insisted during an interview as an adult: “I was cocky. My contemporaries would come to me for advice. I got that from my mother: the ability to listen and to help other people with their problems. I also got Daddy’s sense of humor.”
Both girls attended Morningside College (upon graduating from Central High School) and participated in dual majors of psychology and journalism. Together they contributed to a gossip column for the college’s newspaper. Upon completing their studies, both girls wed on their birthday during 1939 in a double wedding ceremony. Pauline wed Morton Phillips and later gave birth to a son, Edward, and daughter, Jeanne. As a woman whose “code of conduct” was “husband and children first,” Pauline’s wholehearted devotion to both led her to reach out to help others by the mid 1950s.
During January of 1956, Pauline and Esther embarked on careers which would lead them to become “the most widely read and most quoted women in the world” per Life magazine. Pauline began writing for a project for the San Francisco Chronicle which would later establish her acclaimed “Dear Abby” column. After phoning in a complaint to the paper’s editor Stanleigh “Auk” Arnold, Pauline submitted her short list of writing credentials and Arnold forwarded letters which needed to be answered within a week. Pauline returned them in one and a half hours and despite lacking work experience, she was hired the same day. When writing, Pauline adopted a pseudonym based upon the Old Testament’s Book of Samuel “Then David said to Abigail...’Blessed is your advice and blessed are you’” and the president Martin Van Buren’s surname, to become Abigail Van Buren in type. The job caused friction between Pauline and Esther (who had begun her own career as Ann Landers) which led the women to frequently clash and compete. When Phillips offered her column to the Sioux City Journal, the relationship between the twins was fractured until they reconciled during 1964. The split did little to thwart the success both sisters found as within two years from beginning their writing careers.
With responses to often over 9,000 letters per week, the Friedman sisters pushed the art of gossip and personal columns into a frontier unmatched by any. Their responses to the questions received from people of all backgrounds and occupations wrestled with all types of issues. From etiquette to marital issues and everything in between, Abby and Ann succeeded in entertaining and assisting millions with their common sense grounded wisdom, genuine honesty, and mastery of compassion. Shedding light on even the most innermost aspects of life, the Friedman sisters selected the most direct, immediate approach to the most sensitive of subjects they were approached with. Often they would withhold from the public the more difficult problems (like suicide, homosexuality, insanity, domestic violence, and abuse) to address them by phone, personal letter, or even rushed telegraphs.
The Friedman sisters also interacted with others frequently with public speaking events, speeches, publishers, and even television events. The column led Pauline to publish over six books and also star in her own CBS show, titled “The Dear Abby Show.” The show aired for over twelve years, earned Pauline a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and ran in syndicate with her advice column. During Pauline’s later years, her 46 years (and running) as the woman who offered “uncommon common sense” to the masses allowed her to receive the designation as an honorary membership to the American College of Psychiatrists, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Women In Communications groups.
During the late 1980s, Pauline passed down her column to her daughter, Jeanne who began co-writing in 1987. When Pauline was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease during 2002, Jeanne assumed full responsibility for the future of the legacy her mother began to continue Pauline’s mission to lighten the world with humor, wit, and a spark unmatched by many. Pauline passed away of natural causes on January 16, 2013 at the age of 94 and the world lost a truly remarkable soul. She will be missed by her family, her friends, and her fans.