By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
DUBUQUE — As a freelance writer for the well-known magazine Cosmopolitan, Sue Ellen Browder spent many years promoting casual sex, artificial contraception and abortion to America’s single women. This January, Browder, whose views on abortion changed dramatically after becoming Catholic in 2003, will be one of the speakers at the 43rd annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. In an interview with The Witness this past October, Browder discussed her life, her conversion and her recently published book, “Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement.”
Browder, an Iowa native, grew up in New Hampton, where her father owned the local shoe store and her mother, a homemaker, worked part-time at the family business. But Browder had bigger dreams for herself. After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1968, she and her husband, Walter, moved first to sunny southern California then on to New York City in the hopes of establishing their writing careers.
In 1970, the ambitious young Browder joined the staff of Cosmopolitan, which was at that time, she said, “the hottest women’s magazine in the nation.” She would later continue her relationship with the magazine as a freelance writer. “For a small-town Iowa girl, Cosmo’s big-time glamour, success and prestige were intoxicating,” Browder said.
In her book “Subverted,” Browder chronicles how the women’s movement of the 1960s, which promoted equal opportunity for women in the classroom and the workplace, and the sexual liberation movement, which reduced women to little more than sex objects, were initially two separate social phenomena but became united as one. She admits to helping “hijack” the women’s movement through propaganda she wrote at Cosmo, some of which she openly acknowledges now was based on fabricated information.
“The sex-revolution propaganda I made up for Cosmo helped sell young women on the fantasy that the ‘Cosmo Girl lifestyle,’ with all its casual sex, would ‘liberate’ her and set her ‘free,’” Browder confessed. “Only later did I realize, to my deep sorrow, that I’d spent most of my life promoting a carefully crafted lie and betraying millions of women in the process.”
In the pages of “Subverted,” Browder not only exposes the lies of the sexual revolution but also shares a love story, her own love story, as she details the life that she and her husband built together over their decades of marriage. In so doing, she also tells a compelling conversion story, recounting the couple’s search for truth and meaning and how it eventually led them to the most unexpected of places — the Catholic Church.
As her husband’s spiritual journey began to steer him in the direction of Catholicism, Browder started to investigate the church herself. She was especially struck by what she discovered when she looked at the catechism. “I found it so exciting I read it for three days straight. I’m an author, so it makes sense that I’d be converted by a book. The catechism contained answers I’d been searching for my entire life,” she said.
Browder and her husband entered the church together at the Easter Vigil Mass in 2003. She was 57 years old at the time. “Twelve years later, I’m still head over heels in love with the Catholic Church,” she shared. “Filled with the fullness of Christ’s all-forgiving love, the church is so beautiful I feel as if I’m living inside a 2,000-year-old poem.”
Her conversion to Catholicism changed Browder’s life significantly. “When you become Catholic, God doesn’t just redecorate one or two rooms in your life: He rebuilds the whole house,” she said. “I used to have this anxious pit in my stomach all the time. Now I’m almost continually filled with peace and joy. I used to be pro-abortion, now I’m pro-life. I quit writing for women’s magazines … .”
Browder encourages women today, especially young women, to seek their direction from the church and not from the culture, which she feels is leading people astray. “Trust the church. Even if it doesn’t seem right in the culture, go ahead and trust it, because this is a church that has 2,000 years of history, and it understands the human person and human woman better than anything on this earth,” Browder said. “We are created for happiness. This is the path to happiness,” she added.
Later this month, Browder will fly from her home in northern California to Washington, D.C., to be a part of the annual March for Life. She will speak at the rally on Jan. 22, where hundreds of thousands of Americans will be gathered to protest the legalization of abortion on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Browder will also be the keynote speaker at the conference held the day before, presenting “Why the Pro-Life Movement is the Authentic Women’s Movement.” Browder said she is “greatly honored and deeply humbled” by her role in this year’s March for Life events, and added, “I feel very blessed to be going. I can’t wait to do it.”
Browder, who once had an abortion herself, a decision she deeply regrets, recognizes that many other women have also suffered from what she calls “the unholy alliance between the women’s movement and the sexual revolution” and hopes such women seek out God’s forgiveness. She said, “I would say if you’re Catholic, go to confession. Seek healing. Realize that whatever you’ve done, whatever you’ve suffered … can be completely healed by God’s merciful love. Pope Francis has proclaimed 2016 the Year of Mercy, so God in his almighty love is just waiting for you with open arms.”
This story is provided courtesy of The Witness, the official publication of the Archdiocese of Dubuque.