Unorthodox feminist Helen Gurley Brown dead at 90

Former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine Helen Gurley Brown died Monday at 90 years old. She was best known for her popular transformation of the women’s magazine and credited as a major influence in the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Helen Gurley Brown dies at 90.

Helen Gurley Brown died Monday; she was 90 years old. Brown was perhaps best known as the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, which focuses on contemporary issues women face related to sex, relationships and beauty.

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Brown fist shocked America when she authored Sex and the Single Girl. The New York Times reports Brown’s book touted the idea that “unmarried women not only had sex but thoroughly enjoyed it,” and helped fuel the sexual revolution and the women’s liberation movement during the 1960s and 1970s

“Before she arrived at Cosmopolitan, Ms. Brown had already shaken the collective consciousness with her best-selling book Sex and the Single Girl. Published in 1962, the year before Betty Friedan ignited the modern women’s movement with The Feminine Mystique, it taught unmarried women how to look their best, have delicious affairs and ultimately bag a man for keeps, all in breathless, aphoristic prose.”

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Helen Gurley Brown described her life in her 1982 book Having It All: Love, Success, Money, Even if You’re Starting with Nothing. The New York Times reports Brown came from a modest background and dreamed of a glamorous life. Brown spent time in college, as a secretary, an escort and an advertising copyeditor. In 1963, after the success of Sex and the Single Girl, she was asked to take over Cosmopolitan magazine, which at the time focused mainly on health and home issues. Brown is credited with Cosmopolitan‘s transformation and served as editor-in-chief from 1965 until 1997.

Also according to the Times, “Readers and advertisers flocked to the new Cosmo. When Brown took over, the magazine had a circulation of less than 800,000; at its height, in the 1980s, circulation approached three million.”

Brown died Aug. 13, 2012 in Manhattan at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. No cause of death was released.

Photo courtesy of John Saint-Hilaire /


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