She was called a “visionary” and “revolutionary” by people as diverse as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Hugh Hefner. She was a voice for women’s sexual liberation long before many of us born: Helen Gurley Brown wrote “Sex and the Single Girl” in 1962, wherein she proposed then radical idea that women can, and should, enjoy sex for its own sake. Her book did more than anything to begin cracking the facade of the “proper” woman’s attitude toward sex: namely, that we don’t enjoy it and only endure it out of marital obligation or a desire for children. Her motto was “Good girls go to heaven; bad girls go everywhere.”
Born Feb. 18, 1922, in Green Forest, Ark., she was named editor of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965. Under her leadership, Cosmo’s circulation and influence increased – in 1972, it featured a nude Burt Reynolds centerfold. She has been criticized by some feminists for the magazine’s focus on “pleasing a man,” as well as her stance on office sex: “‘I’ve never worked anywhere without being sexually involved with somebody in the office,’ she told New York magazine in 1982. Asked whether that included the boss, she said, ‘Why discriminate against him?'” (qd. from the Wall Street Journal).
Imperfect as she was, she inspired many young women journalists and was probably the most influential voice in the sexual revolution. After her passing Monday, the world is a little less fun, less sexy, without her.
The Wall Street Journal has a good obit here.