In her Manhattan office former Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown had a cushion embroidered with the maxim “Good Girls Go to Heaven/Bad Girls Go Everywhere.”
A motto she lived by, says New York Times obit writer Margalit Fox of the woman who “anticipated Sex in the City by three decades.”
How To Have It All
For young women in the 60s – a time when you were an old maid if not married by 23 – Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl offered advice on – as she once put it – “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.”
And Gurley Brown had her nose firmly pressed against that glass. Born poor, she was the “mouseburger” she described in her books – a plain woman of ordinary intelligence who worked relentlessly to achieve success. And succeed – by her lights – she did.
‘Dirty Secret’ Not Sex
For as Slate magazine noted, “The Cosmo’s girl’s dirty little secret isn’t sex. It’s work.”
Perhaps as proof of that, earlier this year she gave $30 million to Columbia and Stanford Universities, both of which her Hollywood producer husband David Brown had attended, to create the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation.
Her marriage to Brown – his credits included Jaws and The Sting - lasted 51 years, till his death at age 93 in 2010, and despite the sex rhetoric, she was reputedly totally faithful to him.
Innovative and immoral, she was unfazed by criticism of her life style and values, as the tributes to her recount.
Memorable Helen Gurley Brown quotes
Not For Everyone – But Inspiring Nevertheless?
Her values certainly weren’t for everyone, but her sheer determination to not settle for the hand life dealt her can’t help but inspire. Do you agree?