Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown

Jennifer Scanlon (Author)

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
April 01, 2009
6.1 X 1.0 X 9.2 inches | 1.25 pounds
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About the Author

Jennifer Scanlon is Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at Bowdoin College. An award-winning teacher and scholar, she has published widely on consumer culture, popular culture, and women's history. She is the author of Inarticulate Longings: The Ladies' Home Journal, Gender, and the Promises of Consumer Culture; and editor of Significant Contemporary American Feminists and The Gender and Consumer Culture Reader. She lives in Brunswick, Maine.


"Bad Girls Go Everywhere is a faithful presentation of the amazing Helen Gurley Brown and her much-deserved place in the pantheon of twentieth-century women who were part of the feminist revolution. Helen did her own thing, insisting on proving that sexual freedom, self-assertiveness, and raging ambition could pay off for females at the same time as they had mad sexy fun with men of all stripes. Scanlon doesn't stint on Helen's quirks, peculiarities, fetishes, dedication, her stringent stinginess and the shocks she administered to a staid magazine culture. HGB was in a class by herself and deserves this book! It's lots of fun."--Liz Smith, syndicated columnist

"[T]hanks to Ms. Scanlon's careful and insightful study, Mrs. Brown has finally been accorded her due."--The Washington Times

"In her entertaining new biography of Ms. Brown, Bad Girls Go Everywhere, Jennifer Scanlon, a professor of gender and women's studies at Bowdoin College, charts her subject's rocketlike rise out of the Ozarks. She also argues, convincingly, for Ms. Brown as a feisty, pivotal and too easily dismissed pioneer of the American women's movement, one who dismayed more serious feminists with her breezy tone, her refusal to see men as the enemy and her belief that sex is not only great fun but also a 'powerful weapon' for single women."--New York Times

"For the past 40 years, as Jennifer Scanlon points out in Bad Girls Go Everywhere, her cracking new biography of Brown, serious feminist have derided the longtime Cosmopolitan editor's claim to a version of feminism. But Scanlon makes a solid case that, apart from her easy-to-satirize excesses, Brown is a genuinely important figure who pioneered a feminism that championed women as cheerful, self-empowered individualists, that held that 'every woman has something that makes her unique and gifted; pursuing beauty can be a delightful endeavor, not just a preoccupation; sex is among the best things in life; and men are not the enemy.'"--Naomi Wolf, The Washington Post

"Jennifer Scanlon delivers Helen Gurley Brown's 'delightfully knotty life story' in a neat and satisfying package....[T]his is not chick lit but cultural history, the first serious biography of the woman who, in Scanlon's view, 'ushered in and has long continued to define the feminist mainstream.'"--Florence King, The National Review

"In Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, Scanlon charts Brown's trajectory and provides a balanced, revealing analysis of her refusal to allow feminism to suppress sensuality during the second wave of women's liberation advanced by leaders like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem."--The Seattle Times

"In reading Jennifer Scanlon's well-researched Bad Girls Go Everywhere, one cannot come away without believing Brown was indeed a trailblazer for women and tireless advocate for her own brand of feminism....[A] fascinating look at just how the original Cosmo Girl has worked tirelessly to get women to treat themselves well first. And if they wear a little lipstick and find a good man, all the better."--Chicago Sun-Times

"[T]his is a serious academic reconsideration of a figure who, Scanlon argues, has been slighted by feminist history, and deserves a place in its pantheon....[H]appy to see Brown getting her due as a pioneer of libidinal equality....Scanlon's portrait reminds one it has never been easy to be both a woman and a person--that femininity (like masculinity) is, to some extent, a performance."--The New Yorker

"[I]n Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown...Scanlon posits Brown--convincingly--as a provocative pioneer of feminism's second wave....Unlike Cosmo, Bad Girls is not a breezy read, but it's a well-researched corrective that puts 'lipstick feminism' in its proper, valuable--and colorful--place in modern women's history."--Barnes & Noble Review

"In Bad Girls Go Everywhere, the first, unauthorized biography of Brown, the notoriously opinionated editor emerges as a populist champion of the everywoman."--BookForum

"The author argues that, despite her notoriety during the movement's most turbulent decade, Brown 'has largely been left out of established histories of postwar feminism's emergence and ascendance.' This book--part biography and part cultural history of Brown's role in shaping contemporary ideas of career women and their sexuality--serves as a corrective to that historical omission....An informed reassessment of Brown's public life, more satisfying as a cultural study than as a biography."--Kirkus Reviews

"Brown is not commonly cited as a feminist trailblazer, an error Scanlon corrects with real firepower in this incisive biography and explication of Brown's philosophy and accomplishments."--Booklist (starred review)

"Helen Gurley Brown, best known for her 32 years as editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, gets the full feminist icon treatment in this lively, engaging biography from gender studies professor Scanlon....Scanlon skillfully avoids caricature, depicting instead an intelligent and complex woman who, for all her talk of wild sex and steamy affairs, remained happily (and monogamously) married, lived as frugally as possible, encouraged women's independence, and frequently educated readers on vital issues like contraception, queer culture, abortion and rape."--Publishers Weekly

"Bad Girls Go Everywhere delivers an 'intelligent, rounded picture' of a still controversial flag bearer."--The Week

"...Brown's life is a great story, and Scanlon tells it clearly and without academic jargon."--The Weekly Standard

"Brown's life is a particularly rich, interesting subject, and Scanlon does a good job of recounting her transformation from ambitious working girl to influential promoter of the power of the feminine and, in Scanlon's view, feminist consciousness. Highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)

"Scanlon's lucid take on the role HGB played in 'women's lib' long before the phrase came into vogue is immensely refreshing and goes a long way to counterbalance the mockery the poor woman has subsequently endured....[This] biography, both scholarly and readable, is an excellent treatise on the subject."--Irish Times

"Jennifer Scanlon's magnificent and exhaustive biography effectively makes the case for Gurley Brown taking her place in the feminist pantheon, alongside such better-known heroines as Betty Friedan. [Brown's] kind of practical feminism, seasoned with a heavy dose of pragmatism and driven not so much by ideology as by necessity, is in many ways less pure--but all the more human and appealing for it."--The Times (London)

"The first to focus on Helen Gurley Brown, Scanlon's intriguing biography accords Brown a place among the early leaders of the second wave of the feminist movement. In Bad Girls Go Everywhere, Scanlon's impressively researched portrait shows us that Helen Gurley Brown is a woman of fascinating contradictions, carving out her own unique philosophy of pragmatic feminism, a philosophy that defines the lives of millions of women today. Scanlon's perceptive account of this shrewd public figure tracks the collision between sexual politics and commerce, providing new insight into the social forces that shape modern life. To read it is to better understand how feminism operates in our day-to-day lives."

"Scanlon's lucid, authoritative biography of the misunderstood icon and feminist trailblazer Helen Gurley Brown is a welcome corrective to those who wrote Brown off as insufficiently political or serious. This book demonstrates that living an independent, brave, and full life is the essential revolutionary act for women."--Jennifer Baumgardner, author of Manifesta, Look Both Ways and Abortion & Life

"Helen Gurley Brown reimagined work as sexy, sex as vital, and singlehood as an adventure to be savored. Few feminists think of the woman who transformed Cosmopolitan into the 'fun, fearless, female' clichοΏ½ it is today as one of 'us, ' but after reading Jennifer Scanlon's absorbing, comprehensive, and very enjoyable biography, perhaps we'll all reconsider."--Andi Zeisler, co-founder and editorial/creative director of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture

"Scanlon's shrewd biography reveals a woman of contradictions...[A] strategically racy cultural pioneer."--O Magazine

"Scanlon is to be applauded for her revisionist approach. The book moves at a cracking pace and is mercifully free of academic jargon."--Liz Hoggard, Evening Standard (London)