Cosmopolitan legend Helen Gurley Brown dies at 90

Magazines ain’t what they used to be and one of the figures from their great post-war age Helen Gurley Brown (left), editor of Cosmopolitan for decades and author of Sex and the Single Girl, has died aged 90.

Cosmo, the flagship of the Hearst Corporation, was quite a scandalous title in its day, notorious for acknowledging that women didn’t just want to dress nicely as they prepared meat loaf and a reviving glass of water for their husbands as they returned from work (where they’d probably consumed four Martinis followed by a quick one with their Mad Men-style secretary).

Hearst commented: “It would be hard to overstate the importance to Hearst of her success with Cosmopolitan, or the value of the friendship many of us enjoyed with her. Helen was one of the world’s most recognized magazine editors and book authors, and a true pioneer for women in journalism – and beyond.”

In fact the Cosmo view of women’s empowerment was as skewed in its way as the ‘conventional’ view it challenged so noisily but that’s magazines for you. But the school of Gurley Brown can still be glimpsed in the formidable (and slightly ludicrous) ranks of Fleet Street hackettes who step boldly into lifestyle controversies but, in the Daily Mail and others, come down firmly on the side of home, marriage, the Conservative Party, the Queen and apple pie. With a copy of 50 Shades Of Grey on the side.

But there you go. It’s doubtful that there’ll be another magazine editor as famous as HGB.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.