Stay up to date with the latest from MAKERS delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for new stories from trailblazing women, a big dose of inspiration, and exclusive MAKERS content.

Newsletter Confirmation

Thank you for joining! Please check your inbox for our special welcome letter
with exclusive updates from MAKERS.


Orphan of the War

Orphan of the War

More From Ruth

In this video

Westheimer talks about the powerful bond she formed with the other children in the Swiss orphanage. 

Ruth's Biography

Cause of Choice: Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.

First Paying Job: Ran and taught a kindergarten in Israel for Yemenite children who had just arrived from Yemen.

Domestically Skilled or Challenged: Very challenged.

Early Bird or Night Owl: Night owl. "No, no, no, don’t call me before nine o’clock."

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a beloved sex therapist whose frank talk while spreading what she’s coined as “sexual literacy” has reached millions through radio and television over the last three decades.


Born in Germany in 1928, she fled the country at the age of seven for a children’s home-turned-orphanage in Switzerland to escape the Holocaust. While there, she was trained to be a Swiss housemaid, but she had very different plans in mind.


Following the war, she took off for Israel to fight as a sniper with the Jewish Freedom Fighters for the country’s independence, and soon after, channeled that tenacity into her continuing education; she earned her Masters Degree in Sociology from the New School of Social Research, and a Doctorate of Education in Interdisciplinary Study of the Family from Columbia University Teacher’s College.


It was her work with Planned Parenthood and studying under mentor Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan, however, which catapulted her intrigue into human sexuality. After giving a candid lecture to New York broadcasters about the need for sex education, WYNY-FM offered her a 15-minute show Sundays after midnight. With her unique ability to communicate the science behind such a taboo subject matter as sex, her show became a huge success. It evolved into an hour-long nationally syndicated show and opened the doors for Westheimer’s multi-media platform including print and television.


A household name for decades, Westheimer’s incredible career has earned her countless accolades including multiple honorary degrees, Columbia University’s Teacher’s College Medal For Distinguished Services, a Liberty Medal from the City of New York, the International Society for Sexual and Impotence Research 20th Anniversary Award, and was even named by People Magazine one of the Most Intriguing People of the Century. She continues to educate based on her philosophy that women should take responsibility for their own sexual satisfaction.

Related Videos

Lauri Burns
Lauri Burns
Teen Advocate

Lauri Burns is founder of the Teen Project, a non-profit organization that provides support for teens transitioning out of foster care. Having grown up in turmoil and abuse, Burns ...

Barbara Walters
Barbara Walters
First Woman Co-Anchor of Network Evening News

Barbara Walters is easily America’s most celebrated interviewer who, in May 2013, announced she would retire from TV journalism in 2014. She has spoken with more statesmen an...

Misty Copeland
Misty Copeland
Ballet Dancer

Misty Copeland began her ballet career at age 13. Two years later, she had won first place in the Music Center Spotlight Awards, and began her studies at the Lauridsien Ballet Cent...

Rita Mae Brown
Rita Mae Brown
Author & Activist

Rita Mae Brown is an activist and author best known for her first novel Rubyfruit Jungle. She has written thirteen literary novels, more than two-dozen mysteries and several books ...