The Chicago Tribune, which publishes Landers' column, confirmed her death and said the longtime Windy City resident apparently succumbed to multiple myeloma--a malignant tumor of the bone marrow.
While her real name was Esther "Eppie" Pauline Friedman Lederer, she will forever be remembered to readers as her alter ego. Along with twin sister and fellow advice columnist Abigail "Dear Abby" Van Buren (real name: Pauline Esther "PoPo" Phillips), Landers dished out pearls of wisdom that made her a motherly icon to millions and one of the country's must influential women.
"For almost 50 years, she wrote seven days a week. No vacation, no days off. You could go to the biggest cities in the United States and the smallest towns, and there she would be...she worked for her readers," said Tribune columnist Bob Greene. "It was magic."
Lederer was a housewife whose blunt honesty and heartfelt kindness helped her win a contest sponsored by the Chicago Sun-Times to take over the role of advice columnist from the original Ann Landers, who created the column and died in 1955.
Lederer's first column appeared in print on October 16 of that year (Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House), and what followed was an incredible 47-year run in which Lederer spent up to 14 hours a day reading and responding to her mail to help people work through their problems.
She counseled people of all ages on such diverse topics as parenthood and sex to education, AIDS research, gun control and religion. Her candid, yet sympathetic straight talk attracted a large following and was carried by 1,200 newspapers around the world, reaching an estimated daily readership of 90 million.
She took pride in writing all the responses herself.
Lederer was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 4, 1918 to Russian immigrants just 17 minutes before the arrival of her twin sister. The two sisters got married on the same day in 1939, with the future Ann Landers tying the knot with Jules Lederer, the cofounder of Budget-Rent-A-Car.
The couple had one daughter, Margo. Landers struggled to deal with the couple's divorce in 1975. But she did aired her grief in public, writing what she said at the time was "the most difficult column I have ever tried to put together."
"How did it happen that something so good didn't last forever? The lady with all the answers does not know the answer to this one," she lamented. The column drew 50,000 letters from readers expressing their support. She never remarried, and her ex-husband died in 1999.
She had other troubles. Lederer bitterly feuded with her sister, after she began writing the "Dear Abby" column and years passed before they eventually reconciled.
In 1982, she battled for her reputation when she was found to have recycled 15-year-old letters from her columns, and in 1993, she apologized for some incendiary comments she made in a letter from a charity watchdog group. Two years later, she asked readers for forgiveness for calling Pope John Paul II a "polak."
During her career she received honorary degrees from more than 33 universities and colleges, as well as the Albert Lasker Public Service Award for her work pressuring congress to approve millions of dollars for cancer research.
In 1987, she left the Sun-Times and went to the Tribune Company, which took over syndication of her column.
Before her death, Lederer, who owned the rights to the Ann Landers name, said one of her last wishes would be to retire her famous moniker.
"There will never be another Ann Landers," she told The New Yorker. "When I go, the column goes with me."
Her daughter confirmed to the Tribune Saturday that that would indeed be the case.