Helen Gurley Brown was born Helen Marie Gurley in Green Forest, AR. After college, Brown began her career in advertising in the 1960s. She started as a secretary, moved to the copywriting department, and quickly rose to become one of the highest paid ad copywriters in the country. (Perhaps the inspiration for Mad Men’s Peggy Olson?) Her 1962 Sex and the Single Girl was a bestseller and one of the guidebooks of the sexual revolution. But Brown made her greatest impact as editor in chief of Cosmopolitan, which she helmed from 1965 to 1997.
In 2012, Brown endowed a gift of $30 million to establish the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, named also for her husband of more than 50 years, who passed away in 2010. The Institute is a collaboration between Columbia’s School of Journalism and Stanford’s Engineering School, “designed to encourage and support new endeavors in media innovation.”
Helen Gurley Brown died last summer, on August 13, 2012.