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Esther Pauline Friedman was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918. She attended Morningside College in Sioux City, but left the school to marry Jules W. Lederer in 1939. The couple subsequently made their home in Chicago, where one child, Margo, was born in 1940.
Lederer was a fairly content stay-at-home wife and mother until 1955, when she learned that the Chicago Sun-Times was looking for someone to take over its "Ask Ann Landers" column, the writer of which had passed away. Lederer applied for the job, and was chosen over a field of some 20 applicants. Her first column appeared on October 16, 1955.
As Ann Landers, Lederer quickly developed a following, and her column was soon being syndicated to papers across the country. Lederer would spend almost fifty years dispensing advice on a wide variety of topics. She also used her column as a forum to champion such causes as funding for cancer research, an end to the Vietnam War, the right of women to have an abortion, and an end to the use of animals in cosmetics and medical research. In 1975, she received thousands of letters of support after revealing in her column that she and her husband were divorcing.
In addition to her daily column, Lederer was also the author of several books, including Ann Landers Talks to Teenagers About Sex (1964), Since You Ask Me (1983), and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (1996).
Esther Pauline Friedman Lederer died of cancer on June 22, 2002, in Chicago. Because she had acquired the exclusive copyright to the "Ann Landers" name, her column was discontinued after the last of her pre-written columns had been run.
"Ann Landers" was the twin sister of another popular advice columnist. Abigail Van Buren, aka "Dear Abby," was the pen name of Pauline Esther Friedman, who was 17 minutes younger than Esther. Despite being very close when growing up, the two sisters often had quite different views on contemporary issues, and it was not uncommon for them to give very different answers to the same question.
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This page was last updated on 09/22/2017.