"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."
So begins the obituary of Brown written by Margalit Fox on the website of The New York Times this afternoon, Aug. 13, 2012.
Fox continues, "As Cosmopolitan’s editor from 1965 until 1997, Ms. Brown was widely credited with being the first to introduce frank discussions of sex into magazines for women. The look of women’s magazines on the newsstand today — a sea of voluptuous models and titillating cover lines — is due in no small part to her influence."
According to Smithsonian magazine, feminist writer Gloria Steinem once said of Brown that she was "a ‘pioneer’ for insisting that women should seek sexual parity with men, ‘but she’s fooling herself if she thinks her message is a feminist one.’ "
Says the Times obituary, "Ms. Brown routinely described herself as a feminist, but whether her work helped or hindered the cause of women’s liberation has been publicly debated for decades. It will doubtless be debated long after her death. What is safe to say is that she was a Janus-headed figure in women’s history, simultaneously progressive and retrogressive in her approach to women’s social roles."
The obituary adds that after 17 secretarial jobs "Helen Gurley eventually became an advertising copywriter in Los Angeles, first with Foote, Cone & Belding and later with Kenyon & Eckhardt. In 1959 she married David Brown, a former managing editor of Cosmopolitan who had become a Hollywood producer. ‘I look after him like a geisha girl,’ she told The New York Times in 1970.
"Mr. Brown, who produced ‘Jaws’ and other well-known films, died in 2010; the couple had no children. Ms. Brown’s sister, Mary Gurley Alford, died before her."