Helen Gurley Brown was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazines for three decades and the author of the 1962 bestseller, "Sex and the Single Girl," which she wrote while an ad copywriter at Foote, Cone and Belding in Los Angeles. "Helen Gurley Brown was an icon," said Frank A. Bennack, Jr., CEO of Hearst Corporation, in a statement. She died Monday at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.
Her and her husband David Brown’s philanthropy also left an indelible mark on journalism: In January, Gurley Brown gave $30 million to Columbia and Stanford Universities. The gift created the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, housed at both Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism and the School of Engineering at Stanford. The center represents the “increasingly important connection between journalism and technology, bringing the best from the East and West Coasts,” both schools announced. The journalism school said its $18 million share was the largest donation in its 100-year history.
Gurley Brown’s husband, David, who died in 2010, attended both universities and was a movie producer whose films included "Jaws," "The Sting" and "The Verdict."
She also gave the papers, notes, and correspondence that document her career—and publishing in the late 20th century—to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
From the L.A. Times obituary by Claudia Luther:
Overnight it seemed the unmarried woman went from an object of pity to being seen as sophisticated, hip, smart, sexy, desirable. In other words, a "Cosmo Girl."
Cosmopolitan's cover photograph of the glamorized, well-endowed Cosmo Girl took her place in American culture. And the cover lines written exclusively by Brown's husband — movie producer David Brown — became legendary: "How to Turn Him On While You Take It Off," "The Pill That Makes Women More Responsive," "I Was a Passed Around Girl."
Brown, incidentally, never apologized for calling her readers "girls," saying she was addressing the "girlish" side of them that sometimes wanted to be a sex or love object.
"Cosmo" was beloved by great swaths of young women who soon learned to say aloud the word "orgasm" and, even more shocking, pronounce their right to have one.
Brown remained at the helm of Cosmopolitan for 32 years, and would not have left in 1997 had she not been forced out. By then, Cosmo was selling 2.5 million copies a month — much of it at the newsstand — and collecting about $160 million a year in revenues. After leaving the editor's post, Brown oversaw the international editions of Cosmopolitan for many years.