She was born Esther Pauline Friedman on July 4,1918, in Sioux City, Iowa. As was her twin sister,”Dear Abbey” columnist Pauline Phillips.
Today “Eppie” Lederer, her married name and that by which she is known by her army of friends, receives over 2,000 letters a day from folks seeking advice. But it didn’t start so grandly.
Lederer and her family had just moved to Chicago, where the local newspaper carried a thrice-weekly column called “Ask Ann Landers.” It was written by a nurse who for the most part talked about health issues. Simply put, Eppie thought she could do better.
So she called her friend Will Munnecke, a Chicago Sun-Times executive, and told him she wanted to help Ms. Landers answer her mail. And guess what? She was told that Landers had died the week before and the paper was seeking a new advice columnist. Lederer was given 15 letters to answer to test her skills. Although their were 29 contenders for the job, and all of them professional writers, this is where you begin to see the drive and attention to detail that has been a cornerstone of her career. And good connections don’t hurt.
For the answer to a legal issue about who owned the walnuts that fell from one neighbor’s tree into the other neighbor’s yard, she called her friend, Justice William O. Douglas of the United States Supreme Court. Another friend, Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame, served as the authority for a question on interfaith marriage. And so on.
The Sun-Times editor was suitably impressed.The next phone call came from Marshall Field, publisher of the paper at that time. “‘Good morning, Ann Landers,’ he said, and that’s how I found out that I had won the contest,” Lederer recalls in the Tribune Magazine article.
She is still going strong today. And as for an end…
“I own the name Ann Landers, and I will never sell it for any amount of money. When I go, the column goes with me.”
Ann Landers died June 22, 2002.