The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in BiographyNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Popular CultureNew Books Network May 20, 2016 Oline Eaton
“Women’s history, if they had any, consisted in their being beautiful enough to become events in male lives,” the feminist academic Carolyn R. Heilbrun noted in a series of 1997 lectures, suggesting the need for new narratives and new ways of writing women’s lives.
Brooke Hauser‘s Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman is an exciting new entry into group of books that have emerged in the last few years to offer provocative and innovative biographical readings of women’s lives (Kate Bolick’s Spinster, for example). In Enter Helen, Hauser contextualizes Helen Gurley Brown’s experience, demonstrating how the times in which she lived affected her and she, in turn, affected them.
In many ways a misfit, Gurley Brown’s approach made many in the women’s movement uneasy. Rather than arguing for the overthrow of the patriarchy, she advocated that women use everything at their disposal to make it in a man’s world. Advice that might ring a little retro, it was nonetheless well intentioned. And, in a long career devoted to the advancement of women, Gurley Brown worked tirelessly to make visible narratives that might otherwise have remained unavailable to her readers.
She did not think she was beautiful and her life was far more than an event in the life of a man. It was the main event, and it’s a life whose impact continues to be felt to this day- particularly in the magazine and advertising industries but also in the lives of single women discovering and re-discovering her classic book.