The NYT obituary for Helen Gurley Brown, by Margalit Fox:
Before she arrived at Cosmopolitan, Ms. Brown had already shaken the collective consciousness with her best-selling book “Sex and the Single Girl.” Published in 1962, the year before Betty Friedan ignited the modern women’s movement with “The Feminine Mystique,” it taught unmarried women how to look their best, have delicious affairs and ultimately bag a man for keeps, all in breathless, aphoristic prose. (Ms. Brown was a former advertising copywriter.)
By turns celebrated and castigated, Ms. Brown was for decades a highly visible, though barely visible, public presence. A tiny, fragile-looking woman who favored big jewelry, fishnet stockings and minidresses till she was well into her 80s, she was a regular guest at society soirees and appeared often on television. At 5 feet 4, she remained a wraithlike hundred pounds throughout her adult life. That weight, she often said, was five pounds above her ideal.
Ms. Brown routinely described herself as a feminist, but whether her work helped or hindered the cause of women’s liberation has been publicly debated for decades. It will doubtless be debated long after her death. What is safe to say is that she was a Janus-headed figure in women’s history, simultaneously progressive and retrogressive in her approach to women’s social roles.