September 3 2014

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Helen Gurley Brown, Magazine Innovator, Dead At 90


Helen Gurley Brown, who edited Cosmopolitan magazine for three decades beginning in the sixties, died this morning. Gurley Brown was famous for her tenure at Cosmo, and it was there that she changed the face of magazines with candor and frankness, especially where sex was concerned; according to the media columnist Jeff Bercovici, “Every time you go past a newsstand, you’re looking at her work.” But magazine editing was her second or even third act. She also penned the historic (and at the time, scandalous) guidebook Sex and the Single Girl in 1962, and before that, rose from the secretarial ranks to become a hugely successful female copywriter at the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding. (Shades of Mad Men‘s Peggy Olson.) Still, it’s her influence on the magazine industry that earned her the most lasting praise. It was the subject of the 2009 biography Bad Girls Go Everywhere, and as recently as this month, fodder for The New York Times‘ exploration “How Cosmo Conquered the World,” as “the patron saint of Cosmopolitan‘s sex-centric brand of female empowerment.”

Photo: Bettman / Corbis

Dept. of Culture