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Brown’s audacious—and winning—decision was not to hide her past, nor to embrace it, but to feature it as something she had transcended through hard work and almost pathological optimism.She also took an attitude toward men that was 180 degrees from that at the heart of second-wave feminism: she viewed them, not as oppressors to be vanquished, but as resources (economic, sexual, professional) to be tapped.At 35, she met David Brown, a Hollywood producer nursing himself through a second divorce on a diet of starlets.

But the movement wasn’t much of a starter for the young women of the American steno pool—call them the Seven Thousand Sisters—who barely made it all the way through Doctor Zhivago, let alone The Second Sex, and who, moreover, had no desire to go through life looking like Sasquatch and feeling angry all the time.

For these women, according to Scanlon, it took Helen Gurley Brown and her mass-market publication, Cosmopolitan (a month-by-month expansion of the ideas espoused in her 1962 blockbuster, Sex and the Single Girl), to advance some of the most important tenets of the new feminism: that a woman was entitled to a sexual life of whatever dimensions she chose; that work could be as fulfilling for women as for men; that the postwar American suburb and the role it offered to wives and mothers were spirit-deadening; and that a woman did not need to marry to lead a happy life.

When she came back to the office, she had a new sense of her powers.

She eventually landed a job as a copywriter and inched her way up the ladder, until she was paid more than many men at the firm.

Indeed, the sexy-single-girl life (which she was always seeing in her rearview mirror, as she did not become a national guru until well after she married) was, for her, not an end in itself, but merely the process through which she was able to land her man: For seventeen years I worked hard to become the kind of woman who might interest him.