Helen Gurley Brown, the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine who helped usher in the 1960s sexual revolution, died on Monday at age 90.
She died at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center after a brief stay, according to a statement issued by Hearst Corp.
Gurley Brown was editor from 1965 to 1996 at Cosmopolitan, a magazine aimed at young single women, which under her hand became renowned for its provocatively posed models, frank articles and headlines extolling sex.
With Gurley Brown as editor, Cosmopolitan was “the sexiest woman’s magazines there was,” she said in a 2004 interview with Mediabistro.
Gurley Brown was at the forefront of changing sexual mores in the US and the modern women’s liberation movement when she wrote Sex and the Single Girl, published in 1962. The cheerful book about single life encouraged women to be independent and to have sex freely, whether or not they were married.
In the same Mediabistro interview, she said when she wrote Sex and the Single Girl that “nobody was talking about female sexuality.”
“You were just supposed to go through with it, rearrange the spice rack in your head and think about what you were going to do tomorrow while you’re having sex,” she said.
Hearst Corp chief executive Frank Bennack Jr wrote in a memo to staff: “Helen was one of the world’s most recognized magazine editors and book authors, and a true pioneer for women in journalism — and beyond.”
Privately held Hearst is the parent company of Cosmopolitan.
“We’re very sad to report that legendary Cosmo editor Helen Gurley Brown passed away. She revolutionized the mag & empowered women worldwide,” Cosmopolitan said on Twitter.
Gurley Brown still kept a pink corner office in the Hearst Tower in Manhattan, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
She was married to David Brown, producer of such Hollywood hits as The Sting, Cocoon and Driving Miss Daisy. He died in 2010.
Gurley Brown also wrote Sex and the Office, Having It All, and The Late Show: A Semiwild but Practical Survival Plan for Women over 50.
She told Vanity Fair in 2007 that she considered her greatest achievement to be “editing Cosmopolitan successfully so Hearst didn’t have to close it down in 1965, when it was losing tons of money.”
She was born in Arkansas in 1922. Her father died in an elevator accident when she was ten, and the family moved to Los Angeles. She worked in advertising before taking over as editor of Cosmopolitan in 1965.