The tributes are pouring in for Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl and the editor/catalyst for a foundering, soon-to-blossom Cosmopolitan magazine (her tenure ran from 1965 until 1997). The Washington Post says of her leadership style that she “took no prisoners,” The Wall Street Journal calls her “the original Carrie Bradshaw,” The Daily Beast lauds her as “the practical goddess of love to ordinary women,” The New York Times opines that “whether her work helped or hindered the cause of women’s liberation has been publicly debated for decades,”  the Los Angeles Times acknowledges her many contradictions: “she preached female independence, while running features about how to  enhance your cleavage and please your man,” and TIME recognizes her as “a journalistic legend, [who] saw and realized the commercial potential of the female libido in the magazine-publishing industry.”

Brown’s story is one fit for the big the screen. The first female editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan lacked a college degree or any editing creds when she took the position. During her 32 years on the job, she transformed and branded the magazine into the cultural icon it is today, raising its readership from 800,000 to 2.5 million. When the dust settles and the debate about Brown’s brand of feminism simmers down, she will remain a symbol of  innovation and change. We dug up an old video of Brown, poised, graceful, and dressed to the nines, on the Tonight Show with guest host David Brenner talking about—what else—sex and the single girl.


  • Tobysgirl August 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Has anyone else read this? Am I the only woman in the U.S. who does not find HGB admirable? The airheads on television credited her with the so-called sexual revolution; I’m sorry, I lived through the sixties, and Helen Gurley Brown had absolutely nothing to do with the sexual revolution. She cheapened and exploited sexuality for her own aggrandizement, and I do not find that liberating. What was liberating was ordinary women claiming a right to their own bodies, their own pleasure, their own freedom, a right we are still struggling for.


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