Helen Gurley Brown, Revolutionary Editrix of Cosmopolitan Magazine, Is Dead
Helen Gurley Brown, the former editor of Cosmopolitan who transformed the magazine in the 1960s into a source of sexual empowerment for women, died Monday morning.
A spokesman for the Hearst Corporation, which publishes Cosmopolitan, said that Ms. Brown, 90, died after being hospitalized briefly at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia hospital.
Ironically, Cosmo was founded as a family magazine in 1886. It later became a literary magazine, featuring contributions from Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Upton Sinclair, George Bernard Shaw, and Sinclair Lewis.
But, by the late 1960s, riding the tide of the Sexual Revolution–and contributing to it–it transformed into a women’s magazine under the editorship of Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote the 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl. She believed that women could have it all, ”love, sex, and money,” a point of view that reverberated through the articles she commissioned for Cosmopolitan and still does today. By the time Brown left the magazine in 1997, the magazine ranked sixth at the U.S. newsstands and number one at college book stores. Even back then, in the late Nineties, I remember the articles being as sexually explicit–and repetitively so–as they are today.
It’s obviously a formula that works. The magazine’s circulation is over 3 million in the United States alone. By way of comparison, Newsweek‘s circulation is 1.5 million and its audience is much broader than Cosmo‘s narrow base of young female readers. The question that puzzles me is why does that formula work? I understand that sex sells, but don’t women get tired of reading the same article over and over again? When I tried to look into this question–by Googling “Why are all issues of Cosmo about sex?”–the first hit that came up was, of course, an article from the very magazine in question on the topic of “75 Crazy-Hot Sex Moves.” Go figure.
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When I received the New York Times newsflash in my email inbox about Brown's death, I quickly navigated over to Cosmo's homepage to see if they were reporting more details on it. They weren't. Instead, the lead story was (and still is, as of 4:50pm on 8/13/12): "Now It's Your Turn: 8 Moves That Target Your G-Spot." Typical!