In the picture at right by Frank Johnson from The Washington Post, the two most famous sisters in journalism arrived in 1997 for the National Journalism Foundation Awards Dinner. At left wearing black is Pauline Esther Friedman Phillips (also known as advice columnist Abigail Van Buren). At right is her identical twin sister Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman Lederer (better known as Ann Landers). Even in competition with her sister, Eppie as Ann Landers made Chicago the personal advice capital of the world in the second half of the 20th Century.
The twins were born on July 4, 1918 in Sioux City, Iowa to Jewish immigrants. Their father Abraham Lederer was from Vladivostock, Russia. He started life in America selling chickens from a wagon and wound up owning a chain of movie theaters in three states.
At one time, in the early 1990s, Eppie as Ann Landers published a syndicated column that appeared in 1,200 newspapers around the world with 90 million readers daily. Pauline wrote "Dear Abby" in The Chicago Tribune until she retired and it is now written by her daughter. At the peak of the competition between the sisters, Ann Landers was carried in more newspapers than Dear Abby. The Ann Landers column stopped with Eppie's death on June 22, 2002 and the Dear Abby column that is today written by Pauline's daughter now runs in 1,400 newspapers with more than 110 million readers each day.
Marshall A. Field, IV chose Eppie to write Ann Landers for The Chicago Sun-Times in 1955. At first, Eppie called her sister Pauline in California to contribute snappy one-line answers to some letters. Then Pauline also got the advice column bug and started writing "Dear Abby" for The San Fancisco Chronicle in 1956. The competition between them for newspapers to join their respective syndicates became tense and the two sisters did not speak to one another for five years. But they reconciled in later years.
In 1971 Jules Lederer left Eppie for another woman and that caused Eppie to write a painful Ann Landers column about her own divorce in a column that normally advised against divorce for the sake of the children. She got 35,000 letters of support.
In 1987, several Chicago Sun-Times reporters and columnists were not getting along with the publisher, Rupert Murdoch, who had purchased the paper from Marshal Field, IV in late 1983. Eppie left the Sun-Times as her home paper and moved to The Chicago Tribune.
Eppie's former husband Jules Lederer, the founder of Budget Rent-a-Car, died in 1999. Eppie died from cancer at age 83 on June 22, 2002 and was survived by her daughter, three grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. Her sister Pauline still lives but has Alzheimer's.