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America's Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers

America's Mom: The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers

by Rick Kogan

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For two generations of Americans, reading Ann Landers's daily column was as important as eating breakfast and as natural as brushing their teeth. For nearly fifty years an entire nation turned to this quick-witted, worldly-wise counselor for advice on everything from proper dinner etiquette to sex, yet few actually knew the real woman behind the


For two generations of Americans, reading Ann Landers's daily column was as important as eating breakfast and as natural as brushing their teeth. For nearly fifty years an entire nation turned to this quick-witted, worldly-wise counselor for advice on everything from proper dinner etiquette to sex, yet few actually knew the real woman behind the byline.

Award–winning journalist Rick Kogan was Ann Landers's last editor and close friend, and in America's Mom he paints an intimate, affectionate, knowing, and deeply honest portrait of a remarkable woman whose real life story rivaled anything that appeared in the millions of letters she received and responded to during her long career.

Iowa-born Eppie Lederer was first hired by the Chicago Sun-Times to take over the daily advice column in 1955 -- and over the next half-century she helped shape the nation's social and sexual landscape. Already a fiercely independent housewife and political activist, she reinvented herself as "Ann Landers," went on to become America's beloved "surrogate mother," and was one of the country's most influential women. The friend and confidante of celebrities, journalists, and politicians, she composed columns that touched the lives of so many -- even as her own life was shaken by dramatic, often heartbreaking events.

Written with the enthusiastic support and coop-eration of Ann Landers's colleagues, admirers, and friends, Kogan's unforgettable memoir is a fascinating, full-bodied account of the triumphs, the wisdom, the courage, and the many trials of one of the twentieth century's most enduring icons -- her painful lifelong feud with her identical twin sister, "Dear Abby"; her outspokenness and stubborn refusal to shy away from even the most controversial topics; and the tragic breakup of her own thirty-six-year marriage when her husband abandoned her for another woman, an event that she bravely and openly shared with her millions of sympathetic fans. Here, too, is a wealth of touching, enlightening, and remarkable true stories shared by people from all walks of life who were profoundly affected by the good sense and guidance of Ann Landers. America's Mom is a moving tribute to a singular woman who has earned an eternal place in our culture . . . and our hearts.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Radio host and columnist at the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, Kogan combines anecdotes, heart-wrenching tributes and extensive research with his own experiences as a friend and editor to reveal the true woman behind beloved advice columnist, Ann Landers (1918-2002). Often credited with giving birth to the self-help revolution, Esther Pauline Friedman, known as "Eppie," began her career at the Chicago Sun-Times in 1955, with no prior writing experience, but with a snappy, direct style and "an uncanny ability to tap into the American psyche" that quickly led to syndication and millions of daily readers. While clearly an admirer, Kogan (who was Landers's last editor) doesn't fail to delve into Landers's less than flattering public feuds with her twin sister (competing advice columnist "Dear Abby"), the breakup of her marriage due to her husband's adultery, or potholes in her nearly 50-year career, including the potentially devastating accusations that she recycled letters in her column. Most insightful though, are the author's personal reminiscences of Landers as an open-minded, feisty, meticulously dolled-up art lover and loyal friend, unafraid to change her stance on controversial subjects as times changed. To many, even after death, she is still a "mirror" and the "voice of a social culture." (Nov.) FYI: Pubbing the same month is A Life In Letters: Ann Landers' Letters to Her Only Child, written by Landers's daughter, Margo Howard (Forecast Sept. 15). Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ann Landers again, this time recalled by the award-winning Chicago Tribune journalist who served as her final editor. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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5.80(w) x 8.58(h) x 0.98(d)

Read an Excerpt

America's Mom
The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers

Chapter One

LOT 1248W

Ann Landers 1936
Senior High School Yearbook

The yearbook is the Maroon & White. Central High School, Sioux City, Iowa. The year 1936 was not a good year in America, except perhaps for the hundreds of people staring from the pages of the book, faces mostly smiling, filled with the youthful hope and confidence and ignorance that would allow them to see the future beyond the Great Depression.

It always surprises people to learn that the person who would become Ann Landers was born and raised in Iowa. But Iowa was where Esther Pauline Friedman was born, if you're looking for all-American symbolism, on July 4, 1918. She came into the world seventeen minutes before her twin sister, who would be named Pauline Esther Friedman and who would become Abigail Van Buren, or Dear Abby, to most of those who have ever picked up a newspaper.

The Friedman family was big on nicknames, and almost immediately father Abraham, mother Rebecca, and the two older sisters, Dorothy and Helen, started referring to the babies as "Eppie" and "Popo," and that's how everyone would know them, into high school and far beyond. "My friends all call me Eppie," Eppie always said. "People who call me Ann are the people I don't know."

She also said, "I think I owe a lot to my Iowa heritage. I think that middle-American values have helped me tremendously -- the principles, the morality. It was a place where neighbors cared about neighbors. And I mean really cared."

Eppie's yearbook is fascinating, a snapshot of an innocent time only older people can now remember, even down to the ads at the back of the book for the Sioux City Stock Yards, Richey's Barber Shop ("Neatness is one of the most important things in your life"), Blue Bunny Ice Cream ("Ask For It By Name"), Blue Barrel Soap ("Kind As a Kiss on Your Hands"), and Morey's ("Home of the Two-Pants Suit").

There are no ads for the theaters owned by Eppie and Popo's father. Abraham Friedman had come to America with his wife in 1908. They came, fleeing czarist pogroms and fearful that he might be conscripted into the army, from Vladivostok, Russia. They arrived in Sioux City speaking no English, having no money or any marketable skills. But Abe Friedman started buying chickens from farmers and peddling them to grocers from a horse-drawn cart. The horse was blind, so he was able to buy it for less than he would have paid for one that could see, and eventually he and his blind horse had made enough money to buy a small grocery store.

Home was a two-story frame house, and it was a warm and happy place. "I learned a great deal from my father," Eppie would recall for a Chicago Tribune reporter in 1990. "He would become one of the most respected citizens in the city. But there was more than respect. He was dearly loved by everybody. He had a special spark and a delicious sense of humor. He never met a stranger and he never met anyone he couldn't get along with. He was truly extraordinary, a real 'people person.' It was from him that I learned how to be a communicator. One of the things my father told me I have always remembered: 'You never learn anything while you're talking.'"

She considered her mother "a saint ... the one who established the standards in our family. She provided the discipline and set the moral tone. She was a beautiful woman, loving but firm. There was never any question about where she stood. [Popo] and I could con Daddy and wrap him around our little fingers, but Mama -- never. From her I learned a sense of responsibility and that no matter what, you kept your word."

The family was Jewish, and Eppie would later say she was "brought up to be proud of her Jewishness." Indeed, she would often refer to herself as "the Jewish Joan of Arc" and the "original square Jewish lady from Sioux City." Though millions of Americans knew her only by the Waspy Ann Landers name, she said that Jewish culture had something to do with her success as an advice columnist, "being sympathetic to other people and their problems, because the Jews through the centuries have been persecuted and have had great troubles and problems."

In 1930, when the twins were twelve, Abe Friedman sold his grocery store and bought a movie theater, made that successful, and then bought two more. "He owned every theater in town except the Orpheum," Eppie would often say, pride still in her voice decades later, adding that, "My father was one of the first theater owners to install popcorn machines and those machines took in more money than the box office."

The twins were inseparable. "I don't recall ever being alone with one or the other, because they were constantly together. And you just thought of them as one person," said first cousin Ruth Davidson in a 2000 episode of TV's Biography about Eppie.

They were also an aggressively playful pair. Exploiting their twinship in elementary school, they loved to switch places, which delighted classmates and infuriated teachers. Eppie was usually the instigator, easily convincing Popo to join in mischief. As Davidson recalled, "My parents, when they knew the twins were coming over, would say, 'Uh-oh. Lock everything up,' because you never knew what they were going to do. [Once] their grandfather was taking a nap on the sofa and they cut off his beard." Still, Eppie could remember getting spanked only once, after she and Popo used scissors to cut the fringe off some lamp shades and curtains in their living room.

If the twins were natural pranksters, they were also born performers. Their parents often allowed hoboes to move into the house and sleep in the basement ...

America's Mom
The Life, Lessons, and Legacy of Ann Landers
. Copyright © by Rick Kogan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Rick Kogan began his career at sixteen, working for the Chicago Sun-Times during the tumultuous Democratic Convention of 1968. He is currently senior staff writer and columnist for the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine and host of the popular WGN-AM Sunday Papers radio program, which airs in thirty-eight states and Canada. He was named Chicago's Best Reporter in 1999, Chicago's Greatest Living Journalist in 2002, and was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in March 2003. A longtime friend to Ann Landers and her editor for the last five years of her life, Kogan lives with his wife in Chicago.

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