News | July 3, 2024

Papers of Talk Show Host and Sex Therapist 'Dr Ruth' Open for Research at Library of Congress

Library of Congress

Ruth Westheimer

The papers of talk show host and sex therapist Ruth Westheimer have been acquired by the Library of Congress and are now opening for research in the Library’s Manuscript Division.

Westheimer became a household name as 'Dr. Ruth' in the 1980s, filling radio airwaves, television screens, and bookshelves with advice on sex and relationships. Westheimer was a pioneering voice in sex education, speaking openly about sex and the male and female anatomy at a time when such topics were publicly taboo.

The collection contains thousands of letters sent by listeners of her radio program, viewers of her television show, and readers of her books, providing insight into the sexual questions and concerns of her audience. There are also some of Westheimer’s written responses to those letters. The papers also document the dynamic rise in popularity of 'Dr. Ruth'. There are publicity packets, production files and show notes related to Westheimer’s shows. 

“I am delighted that the many letters I received requesting sexual advice will now be available to the research community,” Westheimer said. “I hope it helps us better understand the issues people struggled with then and also serves to promote better awareness today.”

Westheimer first went on the air in 1980 on WYNY-FM, broadcasting in New York City. Only radio listeners with antennae strong enough to pick up New York’s 97.1 FM station could hear her German-accented voice until 1984, when NBC Radio nationally syndicated her program 'Sexually Speaking'. Her audience grew with the premiere of 'Good Sex! with Dr. Ruth Westheimer' on Lifetime Television in 1984. Both listeners and viewers sent in questions, comments, and requests for information or the occasional autograph.