Monday, August 13, 2012

Cosmo Girl, Helen Gurley Brown, Dead at 90

Hellen Gurley Brown, who edited Cosmopolitan magazine during an era of great social change for women, died today. She was 90.

Ms. Brown tapped into the revolution in both society and in publishing that was already taking place in the late 1950's and early 1960's when she wrote her bestselling book, "Sex and the Single Girl," in 1962.

Ms. Brown updated Cosmo with sexy young contributors, who, as trailblazing writers, had embraced writing about daring and controversial subjects, such as workplace sexual harassment, pre-marital sex, birth control, and abortion. Among the bright and famous contributors, whom Ms. Brown recruited to write for Cosmo, included Rona Jaffe, who some argue helped to launch the sexual revolution in America with the 1958 publication of her shocking novel, "The Best of Everything."

Historians and women's rights archivists debate about which early writer was the first to begin to influence society away from the repressive and conformist 1950's, even at this late date, most people attribute "Sex and the Single Girl" with more influence, even though "The Best of Everything" preceded it by four years. For example, look at how The New York Times puts Ms. Brown into a separate category, as if Ms. Jaffe hadn't already begun to alter social mores with her own writing :

Helen Gurley Brown, who as the author of “Sex and the Single Girl” shocked early-1960s America with the news that unmarried women not only had sex but also thoroughly enjoyed it — and who as the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine spent the next three decades telling those women precisely how to enjoy it even more — died on Monday in Manhattan. She was 90, though parts of her were considerably younger. (NYTimes)

But there is no doubt that Ms. Brown did provide a platform for writers, such as Ms. Jaffe and others, to create an outlet for an alternative view of about what women had the freedom to do, other than to push each other on the rat race down the marriage aisle, like Ms. Jaffe used to say.

Cosmopolitan's Helen Gurley Brown dies aged 90 ; Editor's 32-year stint at helm of women's magazine saw introduction of frank discussions about sex (Guardian)

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