Dr. Ruth Westheimer Biography

PHOTO: Dr. Ruth Westheimer

A sex therapist who has become a cultural icon due to her media career and books.

Born Karola Ruth Siegel on 4 June 1928 in Frankfurt, Germany, to a prosperous Orthodox Jewish family, she often crept into her father's library to read his books, which piqued her interest in human sexuality. Her carefree childhood suddenly ended in 1933 when the Nazis came to take her father away leading the rest of the family to escape Germany.

Ruth was sent to a school in Switzerland at the age of ten. She spent the duration of WWII there, separated from her family.

At sixteen, she went to Israel to work for Haganah, as a Zionist activist, where she changed her name to Ruth. On 4 June 1948, she was wounded when a bomb exploded outside the kibbutz where she lived. It took off the top of one of her feet and the recovery was difficult and slow. After recovering, she moved to Paris with her first husband an Israeli man in 1950, where she studied psychology at the Sorbonne, and taught young children.

Ruth divorced her first husband in 1955 and after receiving a restitution cheque for 5,000 marks, moved to New York with her French boyfriend.

She immigrated to the US in 1956, where she obtained her Masters degree in Sociology, and her PHD in Education, from Columbia University. She went on to study human sexuality at New York Hospital-Cornell University Medical Center. During this period, she gave birth to a daughter called Miriam, who's French father she married and then divorced to legalise the birth.

In 1961, she met fellow Jewish immigrant Manfred Westheimer while on a ski trip. She married him nine months later and became an American citizen shortly afterwards.

Dr Ruth Westheimer is now a Psychosexual Therapist who helped pioneer the field of Media Psychology, with her radio programme, 'Sexually Speaking'. The programme began in September 1980 as a fifteen minute taped show that aired in New York.

Today, 'Sexually Speaking' can be heard across the US and is part of a communications network that distributes Dr. Westheimer's expertise via television, books (she has written four), newspapers, games, home video and computer software.

Dr. Westheimer is a pioneer in spreading what she has labeled "sexual literacy". She has been twice named "College Lecturer of the Year” in the US. She eventually expanded her expertise into newspapers, a column in Playgirl magazine and has published several books including 'Dr Ruth's Guide to Good Sex', 'Sex For Dummies' and her autobiography 'All In A Lifetime'.

Her television show 'The Dr. Ruth Show', which ran between 1984 and 1991, has been syndicated both nationally and internationally. The National Mother's Day Committee has honoured Dr. Ruth as "Mother of the Year".

Dr. Ruth has two children, and resided with her husband in New York City. He died in 1997.

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