I'm Mary Tillotson.
I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about advice writer Ann
Many newspapers in the United States have writers who
give advice. Some are experts about
issues like gardening, food, health or money.
People will write to the expert about a problem and he or she will try
to solve it.
also are advice writers who deal with the more personal issues in life. They answer questions about all kinds of
things—love, children, mental health problems, morals. This was the kind of advice column that
Esther Lederer wrote. She wrote it under
the name of Ann Landers.
Lederer did not study to become a newspaper writer. In fact, she did not finish her university
studies at Morningside College, in Sioux City, Iowa.
was born in Sioux City on July fourth, nineteen eighteen. Her parents named her Esther Pauline
Friedman. Esther's younger sister was
born a few minutes later. She was given
the same two first names in opposite order--Pauline Esther. The twins, Eppie and Popo as they were
called, had two older sisters.
father, Abraham Friedman, had come to the United States from Russia. He sold chickens when he first arrived. Soon, he became a successful businessman who
owned movie theaters in several states.
said she owed a lot to her parents and her childhood in the Middle West. She says both provided her with morals and
values that helped her a lot in life.
Friedman was in college when she met Jules Lederer. She left school to marry him in nineteen
thirty-nine. Mister Lederer was a
businessman. He helped establish a car
service called Budget Rent-A-Car. It
became very successful. Mister and
Missus Lederer had their first and only child, Margo, in nineteen forty.
years Eppie Lederer was happy to stay home and raise her child while her
husband's business grew. They lived in
Wisconsin at first. Missus Lederer
became politically active in the Democratic Party there.
In nineteen fifty-five, the Lederers moved to Chicago,
Illinois. That same year, the Chicago
Sun-Times newspaper held a competition among its employees. The paper wanted to find a replacement for
its advice columnist who wrote under the name Ann Landers. Eppie Lederer heard about the competition
from a friend at the paper and decided to enter. She was one of thirty people who sought the
The competition was simple. Competitors were given several letters from
people requesting help on different issues.
The person who wrote the answers the newspaper officials liked best
would win the job.
Lederer used the help of powerful friends to decide the best advice. For example, one letter writer asked about a
tree that dropped nuts on her property.
The tree grew on land owned by someone else. The letter writer wanted to know what she
could do with the nuts.
Lederer decided that this was really a legal question so she sought help from a
friend who knew about the law. That
friend just happened to be a judge on the United States Supreme Court!
letter was about a Roman Catholic Church issue.
So Eppie Lederer talked to the president of a famous Catholic
university, Notre Dame.
Chicago Sun Times reportedly called Missus Lederer a few days after the
competition ended. When she answered the
telephone a newspaper official said "Good Morning, Ann Landers."
new Ann Landers discovered the job was not easy. She reportedly was deeply affected by many of
the sad letters she received from troubled people. Missus Lederer later said that one Sun-Times
editor helped her harden herself to those stories. He said she must separate herself from her
readers and their problems. She said she
would not have been successful in her work if it were not for that advice.
Landers' popularity grew quickly. She
immediately established herself as different from advice writers of the
past. She became known for her easy
writing style and her often funny answers.
She related to her readers as if they were old friends. She seemed to say exactly what she thought,
even when doing so might hurt the feelings of those seeking help. Most people considered Ann Landers' advice to
be good, common sense.
example, early in her work a young person wrote to ask Ann Landers' opinion of
sexual activity among teenagers. She
explained her objection to such activity by saying, "a lemon squeezed too many
times is considered garbage."
As Ann Landers gained fame so did many of her
words. People began to repeat some her
short, pointed sentences. One of the
most famous of these was when she told readers to "wake up and smell the
coffee." She would use this comment when
advice seekers seemed to be denying situations that made them unhappy or
Another well-known Ann Landers saying was "forty lashes
with a wet noodle." She would say this
if she believed someone had done something mean, dishonest or just stupid. Ann Landers did not protect herself from such
criticism, however. She often published letters
from readers who argued against advice she had given. When she agreed with their criticism, she
sometimes ordered the forty lashes for herself!
Landers took a lot of risks in her column.
She spoke out about many issues that some people considered offensive or
socially unacceptable. She discussed
homosexuality, alcoholism, drug dependency and mistreatment of children by
parents, to list a few.
Landers also spoke out on political issues.
She expressed her strong opposition to American involvement in the
conflict in Vietnam. She was a major
supporter of gun control and the right of a woman to choose to end a
pregnancy. She also supported using
animals in medical research.
opinions made her an enemy of several groups, including the National Rifle
Association, abortion opponents, and animal protection organizations. But, their pressure did not appear to worry
Ann Landers. In fact, she once said she
felt proud that these groups hated her.
political activism was sometimes powerful.
She expressed her support of legislation for cancer research in her
column in nineteen seventy-one.
President Richard Nixon received hundreds of thousands of copies of the
column from Ann Landers readers. He soon
signed the one hundred million dollar National Cancer Act.
nineteen seventy-five, Eppie Lederer's life changed. Her husband, Jules, told her he was involved
with another woman. That relationship
had been going on for several years.
Mister and Missus Lederer separated.
This experience affected Ann Landers' advice about
seriously troubled marriages. She had
always advised couples to stay together to avoid hurting their children. After her separation from her husband she
wrote a column about her decision to end her marriage. She received tens of thousands of letters
from her readers offering their support and sympathy.
Landers continued to suggest that a husband and wife in a troubled marriage
seek counseling. But she was now more
willing to consider that a marriage might be beyond repair.
Eppie Lederer's sister Popo also became an advice
columnist. Her column was called "Dear
Abby." Like Ann Landers, Dear Abby was
published in thousands of newspapers.
Some reports say the competition between the two advice columns led to a
dispute between the twin sisters. They
reportedly did not speak for five years.
Lederer's daughter, Margo Howard, is an advice columnist as well. But, neither her daughter nor her sister won
the kind of fame and following that Ann Landers did. Her column appeared in The Chicago Tribune
and about one thousand two hundred other newspapers around the world. Her advice reached tens of millions of people
every day. That was her goal. She said having many readers was more
important to her than winning a famous prize.
January, two thousand two, doctors discovered that Eppie Lederer had multiple
myeloma. It is a very serious form of
cancer of the bone marrow. Her death
came just six months later, on June twenty-second. She was eighty-three.
Eppie Lederer owned the rights to the Ann
Landers name and did not want it to be used after she died. So millions of people around the world have
received the last words of advice from Ann Landers.
VOA Special English program was written and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Mary
I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week
for another People in America program on the Voice of America.