US & Canada

Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown dies at 90

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Media captionWendy Urquhart looks back on the life and career of Helen Gurley Brown

Helen Gurley Brown, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and author of Sex and the Single Girl, has died at 90, magazine publisher Hearst says.

Brown died in New York shortly after being admitted to hospital.

Hired by Hearst to turn around Cosmopolitan three years after her 1962 best-selling book, she edited the magazine for 32 years.

Under her, the magazine became famous for encouraging women to have sex, regardless of marital status.

Brown said her aim was to tell readers "how to get everything out of life - the money, recognition, success, men, prestige, authority, dignity - whatever she is looking at through the glass her nose is pressed against".

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg paid tribute to Brown, saying that New York City had 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. She was a quintessential New Yorker: never afraid to speak her mind and always full of advice."

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Media captionCosmopolitan's Kate White: ''She gave women permission to enjoy their sexuality''

'Spirited and gutsy'

Brown was born in Arkansas on 18 February 1922, and moved to Los Angeles after her father died.

She graduated top of her class at John H Francis Polytechnic High School in 1939 before working as a secretary at various advertising agencies.

When finally given the chance to write advertising copy, she began winning prizes and became the highest-paid advertising woman on the west coast.

She was married at age 37 to former Cosmopolitan managing editor and movie producer David Brown, who encouraged her to write the book that became Sex and the Single Girl.

The bestseller has been published in 28 countries and translated into 16 languages. Brown wrote an additional five books over the course of her career.

Cosmopolitan's relentless focus on sex and Brown's approval of cosmetic surgery made her a controversial figure among feminists.

US feminist Betty Friedan initially dismissed Cosmo as "immature teenage-level sexual fantasy", but later said that Brown "in her editorship, has been a rather spirited and gutsy example in the revolution of women".

Brown soon turned around Cosmo's stagnant circulation. Within four issues, sales rose, even as the price of the magazine increased. Annual sales peaked at three million in 1983.

In 1972, US actor Burt Reynolds' near-nude photo created a sensation, but the male centrefold trend was discontinued in the 1990s.

Frank Bennack Jr, chief executive of Hearst, wrote in a statement confirming her death: "Helen was one of the world's most-recognised magazine editors and book authors, and a true pioneer for women in journalism."

By the time Brown stepped down as editor-in-chief of the American edition in 1997, the magazine was selling 2.5 million copies.

"It was a terrific magazine," she said later. "I would want my legacy to be: 'She created something that helped people.' My reader, I always felt, was someone who needed to come into her own."

Brown continued to be editor of the magazine's 64 international editions until her death.

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