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Veteran Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown dies, aged 90

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Helen Gurley Brown

© Hearst

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

The journalist and writer, who once famously said, "good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere", passed away yesterday in New York after being admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.

She was hired by Hearst in 1965 to turn around Cosmopolitan after her 1962 book had become a bestseller. She edited the magazine for 32 years, gaining several awards, including induction to the Publisher's Hall of Fame in 1988.

Under her guidance, the previously conservative Cosmopolitan transformed into the "bible for single girls", famous for its liberal attitude towards sex.

Brown said that 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".

Tributes have already poured in to the much respected journalist and writer. Frank A. Bennack, Jr, the chief executive of Hearst Corporation, described her as "an icon".

"Her formula for honest and straightforward advice about relationships, career and beauty revolutionized the magazine industry," he said.

"She lived every day of her life to the fullest and will always be remembered as the quintessential 'Cosmo girl'. She will be greatly missed."

Hearst magazines president David Carey said that her "energy, enthusiasm and true passion for women's issues unleashed a platform for women worldwide".

"She brought the subject that every woman wanted to know about but nobody talked about, to life, literally, in Cosmo's pages," he added.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also paid tribute to Brown, saying that the city had lost "a pioneer who reshaped not only the entire media industry, but the nation's culture".

He added: "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."

Born in Arkansas on February 18, 1922, Gurley Brown moved to Los Angeles after her father died.

Following her graduation, she worked as a secretary for various advertising agencies, but her talent for writing quickly helped her move successfully into advertising copy.

On the bestseller list for more than a year after its release in 1962, Sex and the Single Girl has now been published in 28 countries and translated into 16 languages.

The book encouraged young women to take pleasure in sex, contributing to a new dialogue on the place of women in society and popular culture.

She followed it up with Sex and the Office in 1964, the same year that Warner Bros made a movie of Sex and the Single Girl, starring Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda.

When asked in 2006 about the social storm that followed Sex and the Single Girl, Gurley Brown explained: "Before I wrote my book, the thought was that sex was for men and women only caved in to please men. But I wrote what I knew to be true - that sex is pleasurable for both women and men."

Alongside writing, she was also known for her philanthropy. Gurley Brown and her husband David Brown, the producer of movies such as Jaws, The Sting and The Verdict, donated $30 million to Columbia and Stanford Universities.

This created the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, housed at both Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism and the School of Engineering at Stanford. David Brown passed away in 2010.

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