Sunday, Dec. 22, 2002

Eppie Lederer as Ann Landers

A Friend on the Feature Page
Her predecessors were prim advice columnists who dipped daintily into the lives of the lovelorn, tiptoeing around, or avoiding completely, realities like divorce, abortion and homosexuality. Then in 1955 Chicago housewife Eppie Lederer took over the syndicated Ann Landers column from a recently deceased nurse who had been doling out tabloid therapy under that pseudonym for the Chicago Sun-Times. With witty, blunt pointers ("A father who diapers his daughter at the age of 12 has a geranium in his cranium"), a heartfelt respect for her readers and a willingness to change her mind, she earned an ardent following of 90 million readers. Dubbed the country's most influential woman by a World Almanac poll in 1978, Lederer cherished her ability to help and read several hundred letters a day while soaking in the bathtub. Offers to buy rights to the Ann Landers name were declined. "When I go," she said, "the column goes with me."