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People History

A Word of Advice: Ann Landers, Dear Abby Shared E.C. Roots

legendary advice columnists spent part of their early adulthood in E.C.

Tom Giffey |

SIGNIFICANT SISTERS. Eppie Lederer (a.k.a. Ann Landers, right) and Pauline Phillips (Abigail Van Buren) were famed advice columnists in their day. They were also onetime Eau Claire residents. (Aerial photo via Chippewa Valley Museum)
SIGNIFICANT SISTERS. Eppie Lederer (known by her pen name, Ann Landers, left) and Pauline Phillips (a.k.a. Abigail Van Buren) were famed advice columnists in their day. They were also onetime Eau Claire residents. (Aerial photo via Chippewa Valley Museum)

Many Chippewa Vallians are rightly proud of the fact that home run king Hank Aaron played baseball in Eau Claire for a summer back in the 1950s. At the time, however, the city was also home to two women who became as influential in their line of work as Aaron was in his: twin sisters Eppie Lederer and Pauline Phillips. If their names aren’t familiar, it’s because for most of their professional careers they were known by the pen names Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (a.k.a. Dear Abby).

If those names don’t ring a bell, either, then you apparently never turned to the advice column of your daily newspaper during the latter half of the 20th century or the beginning of the 21st. Millions of lovelorn teens, unhappy spouses, and other advice-seekers did hang on their every word, making Ann Landers and Dear Abby household names. What most of those avid readers didn’t know was that the sisters were once notable residents of Eau Claire in the years following World War II. 

The sisters’ connection to Eau Claire – and their sometimes acrimonious professional feud – is detailed in a new Wisconsin Life segment broadcast this week on Wisconsin Public Radio written by Madison author Dean Robbins, who says:

In the 1940s, the twins moved to Eau Claire, where both of their husbands had jobs at the National Presto appliance company. Pauline and Eppie cut glamorous figures in their new community. They hosted elaborate parties, volunteered for local charities, and led parades in a Cadillac convertible. They also loved to watch the Eau Claire Bears baseball team at Carson Park, turning heads with their lacquered hairstyles.

But by the end of their decade in Eau Claire, cracks appeared in the sisters’ relationship. Pauline and her millionaire husband lived in a stately two-story, while Eppie and her poorer husband had a small two-bedroom that Pauline dubbed “Peanut Place.” They even began trading insults about each other’s daughters.

Sounds like they could have used some relationship advice, huh? Read and hear more about the sisters in the Wisconsin Life segment linked here. And check out these 2013 Volume One pieces for more about the advice-givers’ local connection:

Dear Abby: About Eau Claire ... | Jan. 21, 2013

Thanks for Asking | March 28, 2013