I was reading Helen Gurley Brown’s obituary in The New York Times this morning on our flight to Johannesburg.  The iconic editor of Cosmopolitan magazine died on Monday at age 90.  She is intriguing to say the least, and in many ways inspiring.

Her father died in an elevator accident when she was 10. Her mother and sister who had contracted polio, depended on her most of their lives.  She held a variety of secretarial jobs, with the 17th at an advertising agency launching her future success. 

In the 1950’s she was the highest paid female copywriter on the west coast, and married David Brown when she was 37 (considered late in those days I’m sure.)  He was a movie producer and died in 2010, they were married over 50 years.

In many ways Ms. Brown was the first Carrie Bradshaw, rising to fame with her 1962 bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl, followed by Sex and the Office which Warner Brothers turned into a movie. 

Cosmo magazine is the most widely read magazine by young women today, with 64 international editions published in 35 languages in 100 countries. The Times says, “she redefined womanhood.”

I admire many things about Ms. Brown:

  • Her pioneering spirit
  • How she overcame a tough childhood
  • Her long marriage to one husband
  • An obvious perseverance and willingness to take risks 
  • Her philanthropic efforts investing millions in education

I respect her journey immensely, and would have loved to sit and chat with her for awhile.  I wonder if losing her father at such an early age affected her ideas about men, security, love, and relationships.

I find it sad and troubling though, that she’s packaged lies in glossy covers, misleading God-only-knows how many women into disappointing choices related to life and love. 

Truth is:

  • Sex is an expensive gift, designed to express covenant, not create one
  • Clever sex techniques won’t ultimately win a man’s heart
  • Men don’t respect women who sleep around, never have, never will
  • Smart girls know great sex isn’t cheap, and it’s certainly never free.

The world has lost an icon, but I pray others will rise in her place — those who understand personal wholeness precedes sexual fulfillment, and satisfaction is a heart issue, not a body issue.

What do you admire most about Ms. Brown?  As you read about her influence, what stirs up in you?

Helen Gurley Brown, 1922-2012

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