One of America's most widely-read advice columnists is dead. The woman known to millions of people as Ann Landers died Saturday at her home in Chicago.
Esther Lederer was an Iowa-born housewife when, in 1955, she won a contest to become the new writer of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper's "Ann Landers" advice column. For 47 years, she replied to readers asking about love, death, etiquette and countless other matters.
Ms. Lederer died of bone cancer Saturday at her apartment in Chicago. She was 83. Her daughter says the columnist had been diagnosed with the illness this past January.
At the peak of her career, Ann Landers was the world's most widely-read newspaper columnist. Her syndicate says that in 1993, the column was carried by more than 1,200 newspapers worldwide, and read by an estimated 90 million people. The column has been based at the Chicago Tribune since 1987.
In an interview several years ago, Ms. Lederer said when she died, the name "Ann Landers" would go with her. "They can write an advice column, but they will never have that name. I own that name. I do not wish to will it to anyone. That is me. When I go, the column goes with me," she said.
Ms. Lederer's twin sister, Pauline, followed her into the advice business, and is known to millions as "Dear Abby." Pauline's career choice reportedly sparked a feud between the two sisters, who refused to talk to each other for several years before reconciling.
Psychology Today magazine once praised the Ann Landers column for influencing how many people resolved their problems. Ms. Lederer was a strong believer in counseling and often sought advice from prominent experts when a reader's problem proved too complicated.
Ms. Lederer answered hundreds of letters a day from the office in her high-rise apartment in Chicago, working on a typewriter because she did not like computers. Despite her illness, Ms. Lederer worked right up until her death. Sunday's edition of the Chicago Tribune carries her latest column.