"Dear Abby" competed for years with "Ask Ann Landers," an advice column written by Phillips twin sister, Esther Friedman Lederer. While the two did not always get along, they reconnected in their later years. Their columns were very distinct, and different from each other. "Ask Ann Landers" was gave detailed advice, while "Dear Abby" was flippant.
Phillips started "Dear Abby" in 1956, and the column still runs today with her daughter Jeanne Phillips answering the questions. The column has outlived "Ask Ann Landers," which quit publication in 2002.
Phillips grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, and began writing for the school paper. She has also written six books and starred in "The Dear Abby Show" on CBS Radio Network for 12 years. When Phillips began battling Alzheimer's disease in 2002, her daughter took over the writing of the column after helping with it since 1987.
Phillips was always ignored people's opinions of her advice, reluctant to advocate divorce, showing compassion towards gay rights and preaching about strong family values. She also showed great compassion, often calling a person on the phone if their letter sounded suicidal.
"My readers have told me that they've learned from me. But it's the other way around," Phillips said in her book "The Best of Abby." "I've learned from them. Has it been a lot of work? Not really. It's only work if you'd rather be doing something else."
The "Dear Abby" column appeared in over 1,000 newspapers across the world.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, the professional film critics’ organization of Oklahoma. He is also working on a book about the Stephen King dollar babies called “Dollar Deal.” To read more of his writing, visit shawnlealos.net.