Skip to main content

SERIES V. COSMOPOLITAN, 1965-2000, 1965-2000


Scope and Contents

Helen Gurley Brown's "child" for more than four decades was Cosmopolitan magazine. She changed a failing general interest magazine into a phenomenon-not only a best-selling magazine, but a cultural icon.

This series comprehensively traces Brown's Cosmopolitan career from its beginnings to her final job evaluating Cosmopolitan's international editions. Of special note is the proposal circulated by David and Helen Brown for a new magazine, "Femme," that would become Cosmopolitan's new format.

Throughout her tenure, a primary component of Brown's job was the courting of advertisers. Texts of the speeches and presentations she gave to advertisers and international editorial staff, as well as acceptance speeches for awards given to Cosmopolitan can be found in the subseries Advertising and publicity. This subseries includes advertisements for the magazine, including many written by Brown; promotional materials from the Hearst Corporation; and a large amount of newspaper clippings documenting coverage of Cosmopolitan in the press.

Correspondence (the years 1988-89 are especially well documented) illuminates the day-to-day operations of Brown's editorial work, as letters flowed between Brown and writers, Cosmopolitan staffers, advertisers, and Hearst executives regarding specific issues of the magazine as well as ongoing concerns. Frequent correspondents among the staff and Hearst executives are filed by individual. Researchers interested in the advertising content of the magazine may wish to consult the letters of Stan Perkins and Seth Hoyt.

The Editorial subseries provides an in-depth look at the magazine production process. Rules for writing and art format, which Brown enforced strictly, are compiled from the 1970s to the 90s. There are files of article ideas and editing memos, and a sample folder that represents the transformation of an article from its submitted state to the published version. Some notes on Brown's ideas for the magazine have been included, as is information on production and circulation. This subseries also contains the results of reader and staff surveys. Within the Editorial material is a section on special features. Material regarding the famous Burt Reynolds centerfold and other special issues of the magazine, such as anniversary issues and the last issue edited by Helen Gurley Brown, are filed here. Another special feature was the failed television pilot A View from Cosmo starring Brown. A "Best of" set of articles has Brown's favorite article among pieces from such regular Cosmopolitan writers as Erica Jong, Judith Krantz, and Gail Sheehy; a collection of some of Brown's long-running editorial, "Step into My Parlor;" and drafts and a copy of the only article Brown wrote for the magazine.

A small subseries concerns Cosmopolitan Events and includes material from a lunch given by Brown for other women's magazine editors to raise awareness for the National Abortion Rights Action League and a party thrown by the Hearst organization to celebrate Brown's twenty-fifth anniversary as Editor.

A set of Cosmopolitan magazines from 1953-79 is housed in the Sophia Smith Collection's Periodicals Collection.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1965-2000
  • Creation: 1965-2000

Conditions Governing Access

From the Collection:

This collection is open for use with following restrictions on access: Three pieces of correspondence with Liz Smith are closed pending determination of access restrictions.

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063