Helen Gurley Brown was an icon, a trailblazer and a living landmark. Since the moment she burst onto our media landscape with her controversial book, Sex and the Single Girl, she gave women permission to live with wild authenticity and sexual freedom. When Brown took over the role of editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine, she completely changed its' voice and tone and revolutionized the way women were covered in mainstream media. She was so cutting edge that the magazine still retains her voice to this day. While her magazine work is enormously impactful on our media culture, her books will have indelible staying power. Her 1994 book, Dear Pussycat, is quite simply a love letter to the art of letter writing. A book made up entirely of her personal correspondence with everyone from presidents to friends, writers to actors, family members, employees and personal heroes.
In Dear Pussycat, she credits letter writing with the tremendous success she achieved in life. "I entered a contest with Glamour Magazine -- "Ten Girls with Taste" -- and, having the taste of an aardvark but writing a good entry form (not unlike a letter), became one of the winners." Brown goes on to explain that, "Years later I wrote a letter to a small publisher in New York, Bernard Geis, asking if he'd like to see an outline and first chapter of a book I had in mind -- David's idea [her husband, David Brown]. I wasn't full of gumption then. The letter got a yes answer and, after receiving and reading the material I sent, Berney decided to publish the book, Sex and the Single Girl. That changed my life, to put it mildly. Wish I had the letter I wrote Berney."
With letter writing becoming extinct in our fast-paced culture and replaced with one-word emails and text messages, Dear Pussycat is a fascinating and refreshing exploration into the art of the personal letter. In honor of the passing of Helen Gurley Brown, I encourage you to sit down and write a letter to a friend, a family member, a co-worker or a hero. It might just change your life. I wish I could have written one to Helen to let her know what an inspiration she was, and will continue to be, for generations to come.