Helen Gurley Brown

(1922 - 2012)

A photo of Helen Gurley Brown
Helen Gurley Brown
1922 - 2012
Born
February 18, 1922
Green Forest, Carroll County, Arkansas United States 72638
Death
August 13, 2012
New York, New York United States
Other Names
Helen Marie Brown (Gurley)
Summary
Helen Gurley Brown was born on February 18, 1922 in Green Forest, Arkansas. She married David Brown. She died on August 13, 2012 in New York, New York at age 90.
Updated: January 21, 2021
2 Followers
ADVERTISEMENT BY ANCESTRY.COM
HELEN GURLEY BROWN (HELEN GURLEY BROWN)
Helen Gurley Brown
Brown was born Helen Marie Gurley in Green Forest, Arkansas, the daughter of Cleo Fred (Sisco) and Ira Marvin Gurley. Her mother was born in Alpena, Arkansas, and died in 1980. Her father was once appointed Commissioner of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The family moved to Little Rock, Arkansas after Ira won election to the Arkansas state legislature. He died in an elevator accident on June 18, 1932. In 1937, Brown, her sister Mary, and their mother moved to Los Angeles, California. A few months after moving, Mary contracted polio. While in California, Brown attended John H. Francis Polytechnic High School. After Brown’s graduation, the family moved to Warm Springs, Georgia. She attended one semester at Texas State College for Women and then moved back to California to attend Woodbury Business College. from which she graduated in 1941. In 1947, Cleo and Mary moved to Osage, Arkansas, while Brown stayed in Los Angeles.

After working at the William Morris Agency, Music Corporation of America, and Jaffe talent agencies she worked for Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency as a secretary. Her employer recognized her writing skills and moved her to the copywriting department where she advanced rapidly to become one of the nation’s highest-paid ad copywriters in the early 1960s. In 1959 she married David Brown, who would go on to become a noted film producer.

In 1962, when Brown was 40, her book – Sex and the Single Girl was published in 28 countries, and stayed on the bestseller lists for over a year. In 1964 the book inspired a film of the same name starring Natalie Wood. In 1965, she became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and reversed the high-toned content expected of the magazine. In the 1960s, Brown was an outspoken advocate of women’s sexual freedom and sought to provide them with role models in her magazine. She claimed that women could have it all – “love, sex, and money”. As a result of her advocacy, glamorous, fashion-focused women were sometimes called “Cosmo Girls”. Her work played a part in what is often called the sexual revolution.

In 1997, Brown resigned from her role as the U.S. editor of Cosmopolitan and was replaced by Bonnie Fuller. When she left, Cosmopolitan ranked sixth at the newsstand, and for the 16th straight year, ranked first in bookstores on college campuses.
However, she stayed on at Hearst publishing and remained the international editor for all 59 international editions of Cosmo until her death on August 13, 2012.

In September, 2008, Brown was named the 13th-most-powerful American over the age of 80 by Slate magazine. After more than 50 years of marriage, her husband, David Brown, died at the age of 93 on February 1, 2010. Together with her husband David, Brown established the Brown Institute for Media Innovation. This institution is housed at both the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford’s Engineering School. Their $30-million donation to the two schools develops journalism in the context of new technologies.

At the age of 90, Brown died at the McKeen Pavilion at New York–Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia after a brief hospitalization. In its statement announcing the news, Hearst Publications did not disclose a cause. The company said, “Helen was one of the world’s most recognized magazine editors and book authors, and a true pioneer for women in journalism – and beyond.” Entertainment Weekly said that “Gurley Brown will be remembered for her impact on the publishing industry, her contributions to the culture at large, and sly quips like her famous line: ‘Good girls go to heaven. Bad girls go everywhere.'” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a statement said, “Today New York City lost a pioneer who reshaped not only the entire media industry, but the nation’s culture. She was a role model for the millions of women whose private thoughts, wonders and dreams she addressed so brilliantly in print.”
Show & Tell Her Story
Share your memories, family stories, & photos so that Helen is always remembered.
Biography
Helen Gurley Brown
Most commonly known name
Helen Gurley Brown
Full name
Helen Marie Brown (Gurley)
Nickname(s) or aliases
New York, New York County, New York United States
Last known residence
Female
Gender
Helen Brown was born on in Green Forest, Carroll County, Arkansas United States 72638
Birth
Helen Brown died on in New York, New York United States
Death
Helen Brown was born on in Green Forest, Carroll County, Arkansas United States 72638
Helen Brown died on in New York, New York United States
Birth
Death
at Sisco family cemetery near Route 103 in Osage. in Osage, Arkansas U. S. A.
Burial / Funeral
Heritage
Childhood

Education

Little Rock Arkansas. Los Angeles, CA and Texas State College for Women and then moved back to California to attend Woodbury Business College. from which she graduated in 1941.
Adulthood

Professions

After working at the William Morris Agency, Music Corporation of America, and Jaffe talent agencies she worked for Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency as a secretary. Her employer recognized her writing skills and moved her to the copywriting department where she advanced rapidly to become one of the nation’s highest-paid ad copywriters in the early 1960s. In 1959 she married David Brown, who would go on to become a noted film producer.

In 1962, when Brown was 40, her book – Sex and the Single Girl was published in 28 countries, and stayed on the bestseller lists for over a year. In 1964 the book inspired a film of the same name starring Natalie Wood. In 1965, she became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and reversed the high-toned content expected of the magazine. In the 1960s, Brown was an outspoken advocate of women’s sexual freedom and sought to provide them with role models in her magazine. She claimed that women could have it all – “love, sex, and money”. As a result of her advocacy, glamorous, fashion-focused women were sometimes called “Cosmo Girls”. Her work played a part in what is often called the sexual revolution.

Personal Life

Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Obituary

Average Age

Life Expectancy

Looking for a different Helen Brown?
View other bios of people named Helen Brown

Helen's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Brown family tree.

Helen's Family

Parent
Parent
Helen Gurley Brown
Partner
Child
Partner
Child
Sibling

Relationships:

+ Add

Helen Gurley Brown & David Brown

Helen Gurley Brown

Spouse:

Bio
Jul 28, 1916 - Feb 1, 2010 1916 - 2010

Friends:

Leave a comment to ask questions, share information, or simply to show that you care about Helen.

Share Helen's obituary or write your own to preserve her legacy.

Helen Marie Gurley Brown (1922–2012)
Helen Gurley Brown was a native Arkansan whose career includes landmark achievements in advertising and publishing. She was considered a spokesperson for the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution in the mid-twentieth century as author of the bestselling book Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.

Helen Marie Gurley was born on February 18, 1922, in Green Forest (Carroll County) to a family of modest means. Her father, Ira Gurley, finished law school in 1923 and was soon elected a state legislator. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and settled in the Pulaski Heights neighborhood. In 1932, as her father was preparing to run for Arkansas secretary of state, he was killed in an elevator accident at the Arkansas State Capitol. While her mother, Cleo, attended typing school and took in sewing, Helen Gurley was able to play with friends at the Little Rock Country Club during the years she attended Pulaski Heights Junior High. In 1937, when Helen was fourteen, the family moved to Los Angeles, California. A few months later, Gurley’s sister Mary was stricken with polio. Gurley attended John H. Francis Polytechnic High School, where she was in the top ten percent of her class academically.

After high school graduation in 1939, she attended Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University) in Denton but was forced to withdraw after one semester for financial reasons. She then returned to Los Angeles, where she enrolled at Woodbury Business College (now Woodbury University), graduating in 1941. When Gurley was twenty-four, her mother and sister returned to Arkansas to live with her mother’s family in Osage (Carroll County), but she remained in Los Angeles, visiting Arkansas only occasionally. Gurley’s opinion of her home state was rarely very high. Noting the relative lack of anti-Semitism in Arkansas, for example, Gurley wrote, “We were pretty busy with Apartheid.”

In 1948, she took a secretarial job with the Los Angeles advertising firm of Foote, Cone and Belding, where she worked for advertising executive Don Belding and advanced to writing copy. She rose rapidly in advertising, winning three Frances Holmes Advertising Copywriters awards and becoming one of the nation’s highest-paid copywriters. She joined the Los Angeles advertising agency of Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1958 as copywriter and account executive.

The following year, at age thirty-seven, she married movie producer David Brown, who went on to produce such films as The Sting (1973), Jaws (1975), Cocoon (1985), and Driving Miss Daisy (1989). With her husband’s encouragement, she documented her memories of her time as an unmarried woman and, in 1962, published the book Sex and the Single Girl. It became an immediate bestseller, was turned into a movie, and revolutionized the perception of a single woman from a sad spinster to the “glamour girl of our times.” It covered beauty, dating, finance, work, and sex—a subject previously off limits to a proper unmarried woman. Along with assuring her readers that sex could be natural, respectable, and healthy, she underscored the importance of what came to be known as self-esteem. A full, rich life was not determined by great beauty, brains, or money, she said, but rather by a woman’s belief in herself, her willingness to develop her own potential, and her protest against remaining content as a quiet little “mouseburger.” In a time when women were expected to remain in the home, Brown emphasized the vital importance of paid, meaningful, continuing outside employment for women as a means to achieve those goals.

Brown and her husband drafted plans for a magazine aimed at eighteen- to thirty-four-year-old single women. In 1965, she was named editor-in-chief of the existing Cosmopolitan magazine and implemented their plan, moving the publication away from its staid, serious image and transforming it into an upbeat, glitzy, high-profile magazine glorifying the “Cosmo Girl.” Her advocacy of the liberated woman and “having it all” played a significant part in what is termed the sexual revolution.

Brown published ten books, including Sex and the Office (1964), Helen Gurley Brown’s Outrageous Opinions (1966), Sex and the New Single Girl (1970, an updated version of her first book), Having It All (1982), The Late Show: A Semi-Wild but Practical Guide for Women Over 50 (1993), The Writer’s Rules (1998), I’m Wild Again (2000), and Dear Pussycat (2004).

In 1985, Brown established the Helen Gurley Brown Research Professorship in magazine publishing at Northwestern University in Chicago. In 1988, she was inducted into the Publishers’ Hall of Fame; in 1995, she received the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America; and in 1996, she was named to the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. She resigned as editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan in 1997, remaining at the helm of its international editions. In 2000, Brown and her husband visited Arkansas, where they were met in Little Rock by Governor Mike Huckabee and Secretary of State Sharon Priest. Priest, who held the office Helen’s father planned to run for before his death, presented Brown with a packet of photos and other information pertaining to her father’s service in the Arkansas General Assembly. In Arkansas, the Browns were planning to look at gravesites.

Her husband David Brown died of kidney failure at their home in New York City on February 1, 2010, at age ninety-three. In 2012, Brown gave $30 million to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Stanford University School of Engineering to establish the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation.

Brown died on August 13, 2012, in New York following a brief hospitalization. In 2013, during an unusual May snowstorm, her ashes were laid to rest next to her husband’s in the Sisco family cemetery near Route 103 in Osage.

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Helen's lifetime.

In 1922, in the year that Helen Gurley Brown was born, on December 6th, the Irish Free State, a self-governing dominion of the British Empire, was officially proclaimed. While establishing some independence for the people of Ireland, it did not create a fully independent Ireland and the fighting continued.

In 1944, she was 22 years old when on November 7th, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was reelected to a fourth term as President of the United States. Running against Thomas Dewey, Governor of New York, Roosevelt won 53.4 of the popular vote, Dewey got 45.9%.

In 1959, she was 37 years old when on August 8th, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States. The US flag was changed to show 50 stars.

In 1982, by the time she was 60 years old, on June 30th, time ran out on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The Amendment had only received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications. First sent to the states in 1972, the Amendment stated that "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex".

In 1993, when she was 71 years old, on January 20th, William J. Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States. He beat incumbent George H.W. Bush who was seeking his second term. Clinton won 43.01% of the popular vote to Bush's 37.45%. An independent candidate, Ross Perot, won 18.91% - the most votes for an independent candidate since Teddy Roosevelt's run for President in 1912.

Other Browns

Bio
Jul 28, 1916 - Feb 1, 2010 1916 - 2010
Bio
Jul 16 - Jan 1, 1993 ? - 1993
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Aug 27, 1988 - Unknown 1988 - ?
Bio
Mar 28, 1929 - Sep 10, 2015 1929 - 2015
Bio
Jan 21, 1809 - Mar 1, 1905 1809 - 1905
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Sep 22, 1934 - Dec 1990 1934 - 1990
Bio
Feb 10, 1955 - Unknown 1955 - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Mar 9, 1949 - Mar 31, 2007 1949 - 2007
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
1896 - 1936 1896 - 1936
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Nov 4, 1941 - Unknown 1941 - ?
Bio
Unknown - Dec 5, 1996 ? - 1996

Other Bios

Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Dec 23, 1922 - Jan 8, 1990 1922 - 1990
Bio
Aug 4, 1959 - Unknown 1959 - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Sep 30, 1882 - Mar 26, 1968 1882 - 1968
Bio
Apr 22, 1930 - Aug 10, 2017 1930 - 2017
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Bio
Jun 19, 1921 - Jul 5, 2004 1921 - 2004
Bio
1851 - Unknown 1851 - ?
Bio
Jul 28, 1916 - Feb 1, 2010 1916 - 2010
Bio
Sep 28, 1950 - Unknown 1950 - ?
Bio
Nov 11, 1953 - Unknown 1953 - ?
Bio
Apr 26, 1942 - Unknown 1942 - ?
Bio
Dec 10, 1959 - Unknown 1959 - ?
Bio
Jan 16, 1951 - Unknown 1951 - ?
Bio
Nov 4, 1975 - Unknown 1975 - ?
The Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports - The Kentucky Derby
On the first Saturday of every May we have a day of horse racing, mint juleps, wonderful (and often extravagant) hats, spe...
Battle of Midway June 1942
Six months after Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Navy launched the Battle of Midway - June 4th through 7th, 1942. While the war in...
The Suffering Suffragettes - When Women Couldn’t Vote
"Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less." - Susan B. Anthony Throughout the late 1800...
Created on Jun 04, 2020 by Daniel Pinna
"Thank you for helping me find my family & friends again so many years after I lost them. I get the chance to remember them all this time later."

Highlights of just a few of the many successes of sharing memories on AncientFaces. From reuniting lost or 'orphan' photos with their families, seeing faces of relatives for the first time, to the many connections made with family & friends.

These special moments are why it's important we share.
Back to Top