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Jewogle - Ann Landers (Esther Friedman)

Ann Landers (Esther Friedman)

Ann Landers (Esther Friedman)

Esther Pauline "Eppie" Lederer (née Friedman) (July 4, 1918 – June 22, 2002), better known by the pseudonym Ann Landers, was an American advice columnist and eventually a nationwide media celebrity who began her career writing the 'Ask Ann Landers' column in 1955, soon after the death of its creator, Ruth Crowley. Lederer not only wrote the column for 47 years, but publicly assumed the 'Ann Landers' name. As 'Landers', Lederer became a profile-raiser for several medical charities, via both her columns and media appearances. In 1977, President Carter appointed her to a six-year term on a cancer advisory board.

Early life and relationship with sister Pauline

Born Esther Pauline Friedman in Sioux City, Iowa, Esther Pauline and her identical twin sister, Pauline Esther ("Popo", who was 17 minutes younger than Eppie) were daughters of Russian Jewish emigrants Rebecca Friedman (nee Rushall) and Abraham B. Friedman. The sisters grew up in Sioux City, attending Morningside College for three and a half years (1936-9), where they wrote a gossip column for the college's newspaper. Eppie majored in journalism and psychology.

While Lederer wrote the "Ann Landers" column, her twin sister wrote a similar personal advice column, "Dear Abby", under the name Abigail Van Buren, which she began a few months after Eppie took over as Ann Landers. As competing columnists, the two sisters had a discordant relationship. They publicly reconciled in 1964, but acrimony between them persisted. Just a few years before Eppie's death, they were not on speaking terms. They were said to have reconciled before Lederer's death.

In her later years, Lederer wrote her column at home, sometimes while in the bathtub. She had numerous friends and was a regular part of the Chicago social scene.

Marriage and family life

In July 1939, at the age of 21, Eppie and Popo had a joint wedding ceremony. Lederer was married to Julius Lederer, a business executive. For many years, the Lederers' home was in Chicago, where they owned a large, well-furnished apartment. Lederer often said that she exercised regularly by walking the length of her apartment several times a day.

In March 1940, she gave birth to her first and only child, Margo. In 1944, at the age of 56, Lederer's mother, Rebecca Friedman, died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Julius had been conscripted for the war then, and Lederer and Margo had been living with Lederer's parents.

Between 1945 and 1949, Lederer was chairwoman of the Minnesota-Wisconsin council of the Anti Defamation League.

Eppie becomes 'Ann'

When Ruth Crowley, the creator of the Chicago Sun-Times's 'Ask Ann Landers' column, died in 1955, Lederer took over. Whereas during Crowley's nine years writing the column, the writer's true identity had been kept secret, after taking on the column Lederer also took on the identity. By the end of her 47 years as 'Ann Landers', Lederer had become a notable North American media celebrity, having appeared on television and travelled around the country attending media and charity events. In her later years, Lederer began answering questions about homosexuality and other topics that had once been taboo. In a 1993 interview, she stated that she was happy the restrictions she had to work under in the '50s no longer existed.

From the early 1970s until her death, Lederer lived at 209 East Lake Shore Drive in a 14-room, high-rise apartment.

Julius and Eppie divorced in 1975. In her 'Ask Ann Landers' column of July 1, 1975, Lederer wrote, "The sad, incredible fact is, that after 36 years of marriage, Jules and I are being divorced." She received 30,000 sympathetic letters in response.

Death and legacy

Lederer was in good health almost all her life. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (a form of bone cancer) in January 2002 and died on June 22, having refused any medical treatment for her condition. Her ex-husband, Julius, had died on January 21, 1999.

After her death, the longtime editors of the "Ann Landers" column, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, started writing the "Annie's Mailbox" column. Her desk was purchased by Dan Savage, author of the relationship and sex advice column, Savage Love.

In 2002, the Chicago City Council passed a two-page resolution to honor Lederer for epitomizing Chicago "with her strong opinion, her sage advice, her impeccable manners, and quick wit", and announced that a street sign, "Ann 'Eppie' Landers Way", would be installed at the corner of North Michigan Avenue and East Illinois Street, in front of the Chicago Tribune Tower, the headquarters of her home paper since 1987. The opening of the street was celebrated with a parade and lot of sparklers -- a favorite of hers.

In 2003, a collection of correspondence between Lederer and her daughter was published.

In 2006, playwright David Rambo wrote a play about the life and work of Lederer as Ann Landers, called "The Lady With All the Answers". The production was revived in 2008 at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, starring Mimi Kennedy.

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