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Daily Hampshire Gazette Editor-in-Chief talks about feminist Helen Gurley Brown

Brooke Hauser spoke about her book during ‘Author Talks’

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Daily Hampshire Gazette Editor-in-Chief talks about feminist Helen Gurley Brown

Will Katcher/Collegian

Will Katcher/Collegian

Will Katcher/Collegian

Will Katcher/Collegian

By Cassandra McGrath, Collegian Staff

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Editor’s note: The author of this article, Cassandra McGrath, is currently an intern at the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The University of Massachusetts Libraries hosted Brooke Hauser for its “Author Talks” series on Thursday in W.E.B. Du Bois library.

Brooke Hauser is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also the author of two books, “New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens” and “Enter Helen: The Invention of Helen Gurley Brown and the Rise of the Modern Single Woman.” In earlier stages of her career, she wrote for Allure, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Marie Claire and other publications.

Jim Kelly, a UMass librarian, thanked the crowd for coming and introduced Hauser saying he met her a year before during a tour the Gazette. When she explained her history and her novel to him, he knew she was the perfect candidate to come speak.

“Just a couple of things that a librarian has to say, the archives she worked with on Helen Gurley Brown at Smith, I had a look at the record for it in the cataloging system today it’s currently 22.5 feet of documents and growing,” Kelly explained. “For those of us who think, 500 pages, okay, but think of that and it means dozens of boxes.”

Hauser began with a question: “Because many of you are so young, I am just curious how many of you actually know who Helen Gurley Brown is?”

Only two people in the audience raised their hand, but Hauser admitted that before starting her book, she had only really heard of the name. The author became aware of Gurley Brown from an obituary in the New York Times.

“When I read about her life, it just sounded really fascinating to me and I wondered why I hadn’t known more about her because she was a pioneer in women’s magazines but also in the sexual revolution and feminist second wave. So that lead me to the Smith Archives,” Hauser said.

She spent years going through the boxes and boxes of papers, studying the life of this woman. Hauser was originally curious why no one talked about her anymore.

“I just knew that if I was gonna live with someone, which is essentially what it feels like when you write a book, you’re living with someone for a few years, that it would have to be someone that I would want to spend some time with,” Hauser added.

By the time she had finished the book, she had very complex feelings about her. Hauser explained how she told the honest story of Helen Gurley Brown – the good and the bad, the sexy and the insecure.

Hauser spoke on Brown’s relationships with others, including Gloria Steinem, her husband and producer of “Jaws,” David Brown, her thoughts on and letters with Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump and Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Helen Gurley Brown is best known as the Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, a position she held for 32 years. “Entering Helen,” follows her life through the 60s and 70s.

In this position, Gurley Brown revolutionized what it meant to be a woman. She made it acceptable for young girls to embrace their sexuality by writing, “Sex and the Single Girl,” before the “Feminine Mystique.” She also told women that they were not limited to one way of life in, “Having it All.”

In the eyes of the feminists of the time, Gurley Brown was quite unpopular because they believed that she depended too much on the perspective of men. However, she spoke so highly on the freedom of women, and even printed resources for women to find abortions in their local area.

Hauser was most fascinated in the complexity of Gurley Brown. Throughout the course of her life, many people knew different sides of her character.

Hauser said: “People in different areas of life had completely different impressions of her. She [Gurley Brown] wrote, ‘I seem to encourage people to think of me the way they want me to be. I just somehow fail to mention to them that they are getting a fake picture.’”

She is confused how “someone so confessional could be so un-noble.”

Hauser did extensive research to complete this project. She spoke to over 100 people, read countless pages and put herself in the shoes of this revolutionary. But even still, she never fails to be fascinated and even confused by the actions of Gurley Brown.

Ken Didonata, employee of the UMass store said, “As someone who lived at the same time as Helen Gurley Brown, I can say that she was a master marketer. Her influence was everywhere.”

Hauser continued to tell Gurley Brown’s story after her death, piecing together different parts of her life.

“Mistakes aside, Helen Gurley Brown moved crucial conversations forward and into the mainstream,” said Hauser. “She was an early and outspoken supporter of a woman’s right to choose and yes, I mean abortion, but a woman’s right to choose everything. To choose the kind of life she wants to live.”

Cassandra McGrath can be reached at [email protected]

 

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