(American Culture and Institutions Through Literature, 1960-1969)

Helen Gurley Brown wrote Sex and the Single Girl, her first book, at the encouragement of her husband, motion picture producer David Brown, to whom the book is dedicated. The thirteen chapters offer information and advice, based on Brown’s thirty- seven years of being single, for single women in their late twenties through their thirties. Brown says her book is for women who may remain single but who are “not necessarily planning to join a nunnery.” She contends, citing the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, that the two most important things in life are work and love. Based on that premise, she devotes chapters to validating the single life, finding men, attracting men, managing money, succeeding at a career, keeping in shape, dressing attractively, decorating an apartment tastefully, entertaining (right down to the recipes), and—the most controversial—having an affair. Her core message, summed up in the final words of the book, is for single women to “live life” and not to “miss any of it.” In the tradition of the American myth of the self-made man, Brown tells single women that they are in control of their own lives and careers, that they have to do it themselves. Sex and the Single Girl was the first of Brown’s four books, three of which made best-seller lists.