Friedman, Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther
Friedman, Esther Pauline and Pauline Esther
Friedman, Esther Pauline (b. 1918). Name variations: (pseudonym) Ann Landers; Mrs. Jules Lederer; (nick-name) Eppie. Born on July 4, 1918, in Sioux City Iowa; identical twin of Pauline Esther and one of four daughters of Abraham (a motion-picture exhibitor) and Rebecca (Rushall) Friedman; graduated with honors from Central High School, Sioux City, 1936; attended Morningside College, Sioux City; married Jules William Lederer (a businessman), July 2, 1939, in a double wedding ceremony with her twin sister (divorced); children: one daughter, Margo.
Friedman, Pauline Esther (b. 1918). Name variations: (pseudonym) Abigail Van Buren; Mrs. Morton Phillips; (nickname) Popo. Born on July 4, 1918, in Sioux City, Iowa; identical twin of Esther Pauline and one of four daughters of Abraham (a motion-picture exhibitor) and Rebecca (Rushall) Friedman; graduated with honors from Central High School, Sioux City, 1936; attended Morningside College, Sioux; married Morton Phillips (a businessman), July 2, 1939, in a double wedding ceremony with her twin sister; children: Jeanne and Eddie.
The identical twin sisters, known to millions of readers as columnists Ann Landers (Esther Pauline) and Abigail Van Buren (Pauline Esther), have led strikingly similar lives, even given the circumstances of their birth. Growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, they were both honor students in high school and attended a local college before marrying in a double ceremony just short of their 21st birthdays. Esther (Landers) then moved to Chicago, where she raised her daughter and was active in political and philanthropic causes. Pauline (Van Buren) lived in Minneapolis, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and San Francisco. She had two children, a boy and a girl, and, like
her sister, devoted her spare time to charitable causes and politics.
In 1955, Esther entered a contest run by the Sun-Times to find a successor to columnist Ruth Crowley , who wrote an advice column for the newspaper under the pen name of Ann Landers. The only non-professional out of 29 women who sent in entries, Esther landed the job. Her first column appeared on October 16, 1955, and was an immediate success. In the manner of Dorothy Dix , Landers offered insightful, straightforward, and sometimes acerbic replies to questions from readers. "When you sit down and cry with people, you don't help them," she once explained. "Some people have to be shook." Even as mores changed and problems became more complex, she rarely sidestepped an issue. In one of her early columns, she declared that "hot potatoes are my specialty—and I've never run from a 'controversial' issue yet."
One month after Landers began her column, Pauline (Van Buren) launched her own journalistic career by submitting a sample column to the San Francisco Chronicle, which at the time was publishing an advice column by Molly Mayfield . (Pauline insisted that her sister's success was
never a factor in her career choice.) The editors were so impressed that they dropped Mayfield and turned the job over to Pauline, who, writing under the by-line of Abigail Van Buren, enjoyed the same extraordinary success as her sister. Although similar in style to Landers, Van Buren was cited in Time (January 21, 1957) as "slicker, quicker and flipper than her twin sister."
Both columnists, still working at age 81, had also published books based on their columns. To Van Buren's credit: Dear Abby (1958); Dear Teen-Ager (1959); Dear Abby on Marriage (1962); Dear Abby on Planning your Wedding (1988); and The Best of Dear Abby (1991). From Landers: Since You Ask Me (1961); Ann Landers Talks to Teen-Agers About Sex (1964); Truth is Stranger (1968); and Where Were You When President Kennedy Was Shot (1993). Although the rivalry between the sisters has been a factor in their success, it has also exacted a toll. Van Buren once advised, "Parents of identical twins should not dress them alike. Break up the vaudeville act. It may be good for the parents' ego but for the sisters it means double trouble."
Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography 1957. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1957.
Moritz, Charles, ed. Current Biography 1960. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1960.
McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1983.
"Take My Advice: The Ann and Abby Story" (television movie), starring Wendie Malick , Lifetime channel, first aired July 1999.