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Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012) – A One and True Original

Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.”

Helen Gurley Brown

If you thought ”Sex and the City” was the original formula for the “new” Gal Friday, think again! Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote the 1962 best seller, Sex and the Single Girl, was the voice of women of the “new generation” in her role as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for 3 decades. She made women’s issues a cash bonanza for Hearst Publishing, at the same time  allowing women to freely speak about their sexuality.

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

The one and only Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Helen Gurley Brown getting the cartoon treatment

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Helen Gurley Brown in her office at Cosmopolitan magazine, circa. 1965

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

“Sex and the Single Girl”, Helen Gurley Brown’s book turned into a Warner Bros. feature

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Helen Gurley Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan magazine

Don’t believe us? Cosmo is still today one of the most successful magazines in history the world over! It is written in 32 languages, printed in 63 international editions and distributed in more than 100 countries globally. Move over Haper’s Bazaar and Vogue, the Cosmo Girl still got her sass and is not afraid to flaunt it!

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Cosmopolitan magazine covers (medley)

Yet, it might seem difficult to believe that today, in the age of the internet, the emancipated woman needs Cosmo to help guide her through life in the big city or be advised on dating men. But in retrospect, Ms. Brown did bridge the feminist radical take on gender roles by forging a sexy diplomatic message… SEX is good and so are both women and men.

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – January 1969

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – August 1970

As it happens, quite the irony in and of itself, Cosmopolitan magazine was first published in 1886 as a family magazine – one tenured by Ivy League men who weren’t exactly beacons of feminist thoughts themselves. By the time Helen Gurley Brown took over in 1967, she turned the famed serial into a ‘naughty but nice’ literary tool for the modern woman about town. Her brand of feminism had its critics, but she believed in a woman’s career, financial independence and control over her own life.

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – May 1896

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover -August 1903

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – January 1935

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – November 1938

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – January 1949

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – July 1955

In fact, the magazine was so popular over the years that, as Playboy magazine did with its interviews, Cosmopolitan attracted luminaries and influential figures of the day (anyone from actors, politicians, athletes), while documenting major world events and news stories that held public attention. With Cosmo, the woman was in the driver’s seat!

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Burt Reynolds posed nude for the groundbreaking April 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Vintage Cosmopolitan magazine cover – November 1953

The Cosmo Girl was, and still is, drenched in complexity. As démodé as Cosmo might feel to some, it isn’t about to go anywhere, rather, it is simply evolving into its next chapter. As retro as Helen Gurley Brown might seem today, she was, and remains, by all accounts, a true pioneer.

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Helen Gurley Brown in 1964

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Helen Gurley Brown, shown on her first day as editor and chief of Cosmopolitan

Helen Gurley Brown 1922-2012 Sex and the Single Girl Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief

Ms. Brown at Hearst Tower

Rest in peace, Helen, you have earned your place in history!

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