This week saw the death of two women who were trailblazers in their distinct spheres of influence. Both of these women have also left behind two ongoing legacies. One was highly praised and eulogized by an adoring secular media. The other woman was hardly mentioned in the mainstream press (if at all) – other than on Christian and conservative news sites and blogs.
The former, glorified by secular elites, was Helen Gurley Brown who was described as the “pioneer” of the sexual revolution for women in the early 1960s and for decades following. Helen Gurley Brown authored “Sex and the Single Girl” in 1962 and went on to develop Cosmopolitan magazine for which she served as editor-in-chief for 32 years. She died Monday at the age of 90.
According to an NBC News report: “She was the first one to acknowledge that women were fooling around like crazy and that it was fun, that you should celebrate it and enjoy it, and that sometimes women were the aggressors, that women have a sex drive,” said Jill Herzig, editor-in-chief of Redbook magazine, who worked for Brown for three years starting in 1989.
NBC described Brown as “renowned as a kind of intellectual sexual vixen” who also “used her magazine and public persona to engage politically, supporting abortion rights …”
Indiana University researcher and author Debby Herbenick praised Helen Gurley Brown as one who pushed the concepts of “women’s power and agency, that women are able to own their own sexual bodies and look for sexual pleasures, and create the relationships that work for them.”
Helen Gurley Brown, praised as Liberator of Women, who used her magazine, Cosmopolitan, to “empower” women.
We at American Decency know a bit about Cosmopolitan and Brown’s legacy, as well. We have expended much effort over numerous years to encourage grocery stores not to place the magazine at checkouts (or to the very least cover it with blinders). Those efforts have garnered some success, but far less than we’d like. We have also encouraged you, our readers, to speak out where you shop, and we continue to urge you to do so!
It’s hard not to be aware of the sexually graphic headlines of Cosmo – they stare us in the face every week as we wait in line at the checkout. For example, cover headlines include: “Foreplay Men Crave – Touch His Secret Erotic Spot;” “21 Naughty Sex Tips – Tonight Treat Him to Some Boundary-Pushing Sex That Good Girls Only Dream of;” and “Sex Secrets – Arouse Him Like Crazy”. These headlines are explicit enough. I won’t give examples of the disgusting content of the articles. Suffice it to say, the magazine reads like a dirty sex manual, teaching young women to prostitute themselves for the pleasure of men.
Note those lurid headlines. How is that “liberating” or “empowering?” The focus is on pleasuring men – not “liberating” women! Helen Gurley Brown’s Cosmo has never respected women; it demeans them. It doesn’t foster meaningful relationships; it cheapens them.
Basically, Cosmopolitan tells young women, ‘just let men use you and discard you.’ It teaches that their worth is based on their sex appeal and their purpose is to be nothing more than a sex toy.
This is the legacy of Helen Gurley Brown – teaching generations of women the lie that sex is meaningless and consequence-free – a legacy that will live on, even though its “pioneer” has passed. Millions of women have paid the emotional, physical, and spiritual price as they bought into that legacy and made it their own; and millions more will continue to do so.
Now to the other female pioneer who passed away this week at the age of 88 – Nellie Gray. Nellie Gray may not be a name instantly recognized by all Christians and pro-life people, but her legacy should be. Nellie Gray was the woman behind the largest annual pro-life demonstration in the country – the March for Life in Washington DC.
Grieved over the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Nellie Gray organized the first annual March for Life on the one-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. As The Christian Post reports: “Beginning in 1974, Gray arranged for people to participate in a peaceful protest. Twenty thousand people joined, according to the March for Life website. Each year, the crowd continued to grow and also attract a larger youthful following. The march, held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, now draws hundreds of thousands of participants.”
“It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray’s heart every year, and every day,” stated Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, issued this statement in tribute to Nellie Gray: “Nellie lived a life of heroic service to the unborn. Nellie will be remembered most for her passionate and ardent protection of every life, without exception.
“As we approach the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the sad reality that 54 million babies have been lost to abortion in America, let us pay appropriate homage to Nellie by recommitting ourselves to do everything possible to protect and defend the unborn.”
Before her nearly 40 years in the pro-life movement, Nellie worked as an attorney for the federal government, serving for decades in the State Department and Labor Department.
Nellie Gray was a tireless advocate for the unborn, working right until her death for the protection of all life.
Father Pavone (quoted above) shared an email he received from Nellie just days before her death which was reprinted by The Christian Post. Nellie wrote: “… ProLife Americans want “no exception” because that is the right and only position to take for our beloved country. We cannot allow our country intentionally to kill even one preborn. We can stop this killing when all of us who say we are “prolife” become unified on the Life Principles – no exception-no compromise – and vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. We can do that! …”
The March for Life and the efforts to end the horrific practice of abortion will not end with the passing of Nellie Gray. March for Life organizers say they will march in Nellie’s honor next January (the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade) and will continue to do “everything possible to protect every preborn human person and to end the scourge of abortion in the United States.”
This is the legacy that will live on long past the death of Nellie Gray.
While it is now up to their Creator to judge the works of these two women, The Bible does tell us in Matthew 7 “ by their fruits you will know them.” Both have left lasting legacies – one that cherished all life, and one that degraded it. One based on Truth, and one based on lies.
One day, each of us will come to the end of our days. What will be the legacy we leave behind?