Cosmopolitan Fashion Magazine
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If you're like most of their readers, you can't wait to tear into Cosmo every month, eager for tips on everything from having great sex to scoring your dream job. Oh, let's just say it: Cosmo's your bible! But have you ever wondered the way it all began?
Back in the '60s, young, single women were enjoying a new level of freedom. For the first time, they were beginning to bust their butts in formerly male-dominated fields and explore premarital sex. But the phenomenon was still so new that nobody was really talking about it — at least not in public. Although these forward-thinking women were definitely enjoying themselves, there was a small part of them that needed to know they weren't alone.
Enter Helen Gurley Brown. In 1962, the just-married copywriter penned Sex and the Single Girl, a fictional book about a swinging singleton who was leading this new kind of life. Not only did the book tell women they didn't need a man to be happy, but it also encouraged them to enjoy sex with whomever they damn well pleased — without guilt. Those two messages struck a chord: Helen's book was an instant best-seller, and unattached girls everywhere were so psyched that someone had finally spoken to them, they flooded her with thank-you notes — and begged her for personal advice.
Helen realized that if she had her own magazine, she could answer all of these women at once, so she mapped out a proposal that explored her book's main messages. "I knew that women were having sex and loving it," she says. "I wanted my magazine to be their best friend, a platform from which I could tell them what I'd learned and talk about all the things that hadn't been discussed before. I wanted to tell the truth: that sex is one of the three best things out there, and I don't even know what the other two are."
As soon as the mock-up was finished, she started shopping it around New York publishing companies. Rejection followed rejection, until Helen met with people at the Hearst company. "Cosmopolitan — their old general-interest publication for men and women — was hemorrhaging money," she says. "They had been planning to just close it down but instead agreed to give it to me and let me try out my new format."
The first issue to totally reflect Helen's vision was September 1965, but the July '65 issue was the first she edited. "It had a piece about the Pill, which was still new and hadn't really been written about before," she says. "To me, the most important thing about it was that if you weren't worried about getting pregnant, you could enjoy yourself more in bed. So we wrote a cover line to that effect." When women saw the line — "The new pill that makes women more responsive" — they knew exactly what Cosmo was talking about and snatched the issue off newsstands in droves.
From then on, the magazine continued to push the envelope with articles on provocative (and often taboo) topics like man-meeting vacations and extramarital affairs. Soon it had a huge — and fiercely loyal — readership.
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