Pictured is the cover of the May 1942 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine, issue number 671. While today, Cosmo is known for its focus on women and sexuality, it was first published in 1886 as a family magazine. Soon, it became a leading literary publication, featuring such writing greats as Ambrose Bierce, Willa Cather, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Edith Wharton, and H.G. Wells.
Newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst purchased the magazine in 1905 for $400,000 (around $11.4 million today). During the first half of the 20th century, Cosmopolitan continued to feature short novels and stories, serials, and summaries of popular non-fiction works. However, by 1955, circulation had dropped as television took over the popular storytelling medium.
Helen Gurley Brown took over as editor in 1965 and set her sights on an audience of single women. An an expression of the sexual liberation of the time, Cosmopolitan set itself apart by openly discussing women’s issues, birth control, and unabashed sexual pleasure. Though it faced early protest and backlash, it stayed the course and has since continued this legacy through today. Learn more about the history of Cosmopolitan here.