But the young family found itself struggling on her husband's residency income. So Brothers came up with the idea of entering a television quiz show as a contestant.
"The $64,000 Question" quizzed contestants in their chosen area of expertise. She memorized 20 volumes of a boxing encyclopedia — and, with that as her subject, became the only woman and the second person to ever win the show's top prize.
Brothers tried her luck again on the superseding "$64,000 Challenge," answering each question correctly and earning the dubious distinction as one of the biggest winners in the history of television quiz shows. She later denied any knowledge of cheating, and during a 1959 hearing in the quiz show scandal, a producer exonerated her of involvement.
Her celebrity opened up doors. In 1956, she became co-host of "Sports Showcast" and frequently appeared on talk shows.
Two years later, NBC offered her a trial on an afternoon television program in which she advised on love, marriage, sex and child-rearing. Its success led to a nationally telecast program, and subsequent late-night shows that addressed such taboo subjects as menopause, frigidity, impotence and sexual enjoyment.
She also dispensed advice on several phone-in radio programs, sometimes going live. She was criticized by some for giving out advice without knowing her callers' histories. But Brothers responded that she was not practicing therapy on the air and that she advised callers to seek professional help when needed.
Despite criticism of the format, the call-in show took off, and by 1985, the Association of Media Psychologists was created to monitor for abuses.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, who has offered his medical expertise in radio and television formats first pioneered by Brothers, was among those sharing reaction to her death Monday.