BALTIMORE, August 14, 2012 - Helen Gurley Brown, the woman who may have single handedly started the women’s sexual revolution, died Monday at the age of 90. Women of this generation may not remember her shocking book or incredible rise to Cosmopolitan editor, but it remains a lasting influence today.
By all accounts, Ms. Brown should have been another secretary in the typing pool. She certainly wasn’t considered pretty when she graduated from a
Brown break came in the form of a chance to write ad copy at the Foote, Cone & Belding ad agency. When she began winning prizes for her work, she went on to work at other advertising firms, becoming one of the most highly-paid women in that field. Along the way she was picking up another kind of experience, one that would make her a permanent fixture in the sexual revolution.
“Sex and the Single Girl,” published in 1962, was book of sexual advice and opinion, along with heavy doses of stories from her own experience and became the female call to action on sexual freedom.
A year before ‘The Feminine Mystique’ was published, Brown brazenly advocated that single women did not have remain sexless and unsatisfied in their marriage-less state. With chapter titles such as “How to Be Sexy”, “Nine to Five”, and “Money Money Money” Brown told women they could have it all – love, sex and money. It became a playbook on how to conduct an affair, and was a best seller.
Not only was Brown telling women that they could climb the corporate ladder, but along the way they could have fun and make their own money.
While her advice seems dated now (using feminine wiles to move up and get noticed), it advanced a concept that Ms. Brown was passionate about and still resonates today: financial independence for women.
Up to and including the first half of the twentieth century, women were expected to stay at home, wait until marriage to have sex, and depend on a husband for their financial well-being. Sex and the Single woman was the starting bell to erase those misogynistic views.
Helen Brown went on to transform Cosmopolitan magazine from a dull literary magazine into one of the preeminent fashion magazines. Despite having no editor experience, Cosmopolitan became a cultural touchstone, with headlines screaming “10 ways to please your man” and models with plunging necklines on the cover.
Her name may not be familiar to most women, but most women in
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