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'Dear Abby' columnist dies in Minnesota

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Pauline Friedman Phillips, who penned the long-running "Dear Abby" advice column under the name Abigail Van Buren, has died in Minnesota, the Associated Press reported. She was 94 and had been living in Minnetonka near family, the AP said.

A publicist said the columnist, who was once followed by millions of newspaper readers around the world, died Wednesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Phillips launched the column in 1956 and in it championed equal rights for women, minorities, people with mental illness and those who are physically challenged, the company that syndicated Dear Abby said in a statement.

The column has promoted AIDS awareness and education, hospice care, the living will, organ donation and also raised awareness about gender apartheid suffered by women in Afghanistan, the company said. The column lives on, written by Phillips' daughter Jeanne.

Phillips' own life was not without drama. She often competed with the advice column of her twin sister Esther Friedman Lederer, who wrote under the name Ann Landers. She died in 2002. The two became closer later in life after a sometimes stormy relationship in their early adult years. The two grew up in Sioux City, Iowa.

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