Pauline Friedman Phillips, the original writer for the advice column “Dear Abby” and a fierce women’s rights activist, died on Wednesday in Minneapolis. The popular columnist was 94 years old.
Pauline Friedman Phillips started her career by helping her twin sister respond to letters for an advice column in Chicago Sun-Times. In 1956, Phillips started her own advice column with the San Francisco Chronicle. She would write for Dear Abby for over 40 years, until her daughter Jeanne Phillips assumed the position in 2002. Jeanne Phillips not only continues her mother’s tradition, but is also a strong supporter of women’s rights and reproductive choice.
While best known for her column, Phillips was also very supportive of women’s rights. She campaigned for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, including making a television ad for Iowa. In 1997, the column ran a letter by Mavis Leno, the Feminist Majority Foundation Chair of the Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid, about the Taliban treatment of Afghan women and girls with the contact information for the organization. The piece generated enough calls from readers to crash the Feminist Majority Foundation phone system and that of a women-owned call center brought on to help handle the response.
Phillips also organized around AIDS treatment and awareness, birth control access, and abortion access. She also featured letters from women facing domestic violence, rape, incest, and drug abuse. Jeanne Phillips who continues her mother’s tradition and is also a strong supporter of women’s rights and reproductive choice.