Helen Gurley Brown, the influential editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and zesty author of the 1962 bestseller Sex and the Single Girl, a book that helped spur the sexual revolution by declaring that women could "have it all" -- including a career, marriage and great sex -- died Monday at a hospital in New York City. She was 90.
Her death, of undisclosed causes, was announced by Hearst Corp., the owner of Cosmopolitan.
Mrs. Brown, who in more than three decades at Cosmo transformed the faltering general-interest magazine into a newsstand powerhouse with a circulation of more than 2.5 million, regarded herself as a champion of feminine power even as her covers promoted "20 ways to please your man" and other tips to attract men.
Sex and the Single Girl, written when Mrs. Brown was 40 and married, aimed to revolutionize single women's attitudes toward their lives. The book sold millions of copies and became a cultural touchstone with its message that single women didn't need to be married to enjoy sex and didn't need to apologize for it, either.
Mrs. Brown said she was writing for most women, who, like herself, were not born to privilege or blessed with beauty or a college education.
Helen Marie Gurley was born in Green Forest, Ark., deep in the Ozark Mountains, on Feb. 18, 1922.
Helen Gurley attended Texas State College for Women before financial reversals led her back to Los Angeles, where her widowed mother had settled the family.
In 1948, she joined the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency, where she was promoted to copywriter. Several years later, working at Kenyon & Eckhardt, she became one of the country's highest-paid advertising writers.
In 1959, when she was 37, she married David Brown, an executive with 20th Century Fox movie studios who later produced films including Jaws and The Sting . She was married to Brown until his death in 2010.
In 1965, Hearst Corp. tapped Mrs. Brown to revive Cosmopolitan's sagging fortunes. Her personality was so woven into Cosmopolitan that it made huge news when she was forced from her position as editor in chief in 1996.