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Helen Gurley Brown shook up the gender roles, revolutionized Cosmopolitan

Longtime Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown shocked some Americans with her views on the single woman.

By / August 13, 2012

Helen Gurley Brown was editor of Cosmopolitan magazine for more than three decades.

Marty Lederhandler/AP

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Helen Gurley Brown, the writer credited with turning Cosmopolitan magazine into a bible for single women and who shocked the U.S. with her book “Sex and the Single Girl,” died today at age 90, according to the Hearst Corporation.

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“Helen Gurley Brown was an icon,” said Hearst Corporation CEO Frank A. Bennack, Jr. in a statement. “Her formula for honest and straightforward advice about relationships, career and beauty revolutionized the magazine industry.”

Brown was born in Green Forest, Ark. and later moved with her family to Los Angeles. After graduating from Woodbury Business College, she held various secretarial jobs, and her writing caught her boss’s eye when she was working at advertising agency Foote Cone & Belding as the executive secretary to board chairman Don Beldin. Beldin promoted her to copywriter.

She later married David Brown, a Hollywood executive who produced films such as “Jaws” and “The Sting.”

Brown published “Sex and the Single Girl” in 1962. The book was shunned by some for encouraging sexual relationships before marriage and its advice to women to become financially independent.

Following “Sex and the Single Girl,” Brown became editor of Cosmopolitan in 1965 after sending the president of the Hearst Corporation a proposal of how to transform the magazine. Before Brown’s tenure, the magazine ran advice to housewives, then later switched to fiction and investigative articles. Cosmopolitan quickly became devoted to beauty and romance tips for women under Brown’s reign.

Though she was replaced as editor in 1997, Brown remained at the company overseeing the foreign editions of the magazine. Her official title was editor of all international editions, a position she held until her death, and she still went into the office almost every day, according to the Hearst Corporation.

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