Fellow, New York Academy of Medicine, Yale and Princeton Universities
Inducted in 2010
Ruth Westheimer is a retired sex therapist. She built her career on using media and a pop culture presence to educate people on the various facets of sex—breaking the barriers of a subject whose conversation was widely frowned upon for the time. She has written over 40 books on the subject of sexuality. She has also hosted television and radio shows.
After finishing up her education, Ruth began working at Planned Parenthood. Working there inspired her to further her education on human sexuality. She pursued a position as a research assistant to Helena Singer Kaplan, a well known American sex therapist. She taught at several universities following this position.
Ruth was the host of the radio show, "Sexually Speaking." The purpose of the show was to educate people on the use of contraceptives. By 1983, she had the most popular radio show in New York, and it was picked up by NBC who renamed it "The Dr. Ruth Show." Ruth was the producer until 1990. She revolutionized the way sex was discussed on public radio, cultivating her famous catchphrase, "Get some."
Ruth went also hosted television shows. Her first show was "Good Sex! With Dr. Ruth Westheimer," eventually being renamed to "The Dr. Ruth Show." She hosted various similar shows including "What’s Up, Dr. Ruth?" and "You’re on the Air with Dr. Ruth."
She became a household name as she began appearing on talk shows like "Johnny Carson" and "Letterman." She also appeared on an episode of "Quantum Leap." She also sings on a Tom Chapin album that talks about the various types of animals that sexually reproduce. The song was featured in ads for Honda and Herbal Essences.
Ruth appeared regularly on PBS’s "Between the Lions" where she played a parody version of her role: Dr. Ruth Wordheimer. She was featured in "Playboy" as one of the most important people in sex. An off-Broadway play, "Becoming Dr. Ruth," was created as a tribute to her harrowing journey from Holocaust survivor to a world-famous sex therapist.
Ruth has received honorary doctorates from Hebrew Union College seminary, Lehman College of the City University of New York, and Trinity College. She delivered commencement speeches at those schools, as well. She is a recipient of the Leo Baeck Medal for her humanitarian work toward social change and tolerance.
Ruth studied psychology at the University of Paris. She obtained her master’s in sociology from the New School and her EdD from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University.