Ruth Westheimer - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Ruth Westheimer

At four foot seven, German-born Orthodox Jew Ruth Westheimer (1928-) has been a sex education powerhouse since the 1960s. The journey that led her to break ground in a whole new world of broadcasting will make you love her even more. At the age of eleven, she was sent away by her parents to a Swiss Jewish girls’ sanctuary to escape Nazi capture. Shortly thereafter, she became an orphan when her parents were killed in the Holocaust. Westheimer worked as a maid at a school and as a teen made her way to Palestine, where she was trained as a sniper and participated in underground warfare to establish a Jewish homeland.

After Israel declared its independence in 1948, Westheimer was injured in a bombing, so she moved to Paris with her new husband. There she studied psychology at the Sorbonne; after the dissolution of her first marriage, she moved to New York with another boyfriend, where she finished a master’s in psychology from the New School and a doctorate in education from Columbia.

In the 1960s, Westheimer began working at Planned Parenthood as a sex educator, and her candid lecture work led to an offer of a fifteen-minute segment on a local WYNY radio station. Debuting in the 1980s, the show, Sexually Speaking, was a huge hit; it expanded to an hour-long segment, and Dr. Ruth became a household name. Her special brand of humor, sex-positive advocacy mixed with old-fashioned demureness (she still insists that people use the cover, “I’m asking for a friend”), and inimitable German accent made her a legend. In the past four decades, Dr. Ruth has appeared across multiple platforms, including writing over thirty-six books, and she remains a cultural icon representing a liberal and frank attitude toward healthy sexuality.

Dr. Ruth, sex therapist