Before Carrie Bradshaw, even before Anna Wintour, there was Helen Gurley Brown. She was a pioneer of powerful women in publishing, running Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965 to 1997.
She took over Cosmo as Editor-in-Chief after the success of her book, “Sex and the Single Girl”, which she wrote at the age of 40. Quite an accomplishment I think, considering by today’s standards, if you’ve not conquered the world by 30, well, you’re a lost cause! Under her helm, circulation went from the hundred thousands to several million across the globe.
The 70s was a time when young women began questioning the traditional roles of wife and mother. Was it okay to be single, have a career, make your own money, be independent, and not “save yourself for marriage”? Cosmopolitan addressed those issues head on, with a resounding message from Helen saying, “Yes it is!”.
Through the years, the magazine, like we girls, evolved. It helped empower women to take charge of their destiny and not think life was all about marriage, a white picket fence, and 2.5 children. We could make our own money, wear beautiful clothes, buy a car, become an Executive, get married, make babies; whatever we desired. On our terms. Soft-core feminism, in baby steps.
I was definitely a Cosmo Girl in my single days, much to my Mother’s chagrin. It all worked out though. We women are amazing creatures capable of doing anything. Social mores should not set limitations on our dreams and aspirations, whether they are to be a career woman or a stay at home Mom. It’s our decision. I think Helen Gurley Brown helped pave the way for our liberation.
After leaving her position as Editor-in-Chief, she stayed on to oversee the international editions of Cosmopolitan, until her death in 2012 at the age of 90.
After she stepped down, I felt like the magazine lost it’s edge. Not sure if it really did, or if I had just “outgrown” it due to my own evolution. That’s kind of sad. I can’t even tell you the last time I picked up an issue, but it was definitely my absolute favorite magazine and inspiration during my 20s. It’s a totally different time now, but I hope the Cosmo Girl is still alive and well in the 2010s!
“Good girls go to heaven; bad girls go everywhere” – Helen Gurley Brown
Thanks for reading, and be fierce!