'Cosmopolitan' Editor Helen Gurley Brown Was the Original 'Fun, Fearless Female'

helen gurley brownSad, sad news: Helen Gurley Brown, the longtime Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, died this morning at the age of 90. A tremendous and tragic loss. Because while that title -- "Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan" -- will probably always be associated with the name "Helen Gurley Brown," her legacy is so much more profound than that title (notable though it may be) implies. Helen Gurley Brown was an icon, a revolutionary. Her brave 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl can be credited with introducing the idea of shame-free sex for (gasp!) unmarried women to an America which was, at the time, quite scandalized. (Of course, Sex and the Single Girl was about more than simply sex. It was about women daring to think for themselves.)

Here's the CliffsNotes version for you moms of tween girls who have no idea what the world was like before HGB: Without Helen Gurley Brown, Carrie Bradshaw could never have existed.


Before Brown came along, Cosmopolitan was just another ladies' magazine designed to keep housewives preoccupied with baking the best birthday cake on the block and starching their husband's work shirts and keeping the house tidy at all times. Before Brown came along, "fun, fearless females" were an anomaly. Unless your idea of "fun" involves existing to fulfill other people's needs and pretending you don't have any of your own. (As for "fearless," maybe sewing without a thimble?)

More From The Stir: 10 Helen Gurley Brown Quotes Every Woman Should Live By

Helen Gurley Brown left behind an endless supply of incredible quotes, but this is definitely one of my favorites (from her 1982 book Having It All):

“I never liked the looks of the life that was programmed for me -- ordinary, hillbilly, and poor -- and I repudiated it from the time I was 7 years old.” 

Helen Gurley Brown changed her fate -- and, in doing so, changed the fate of women everywhere.

What will you remember about Helen Gurley Brown?

Image via Splash

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