What You Don't Know About Dr. Ruth

Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born Karola Ruth Siegel on June 4, 1928. The well-known sex expert began working at Planned Parenthood in the 1950s, but gained notoriety in the 1980s after she delivered a lecture that got people talking (via Biography). That lecture landed Ruth her very own radio talk show titled "Sexually Speaking." The show not only gained popularity, but made Ruth a household name. The radio program touched on matters of relationships and human sexuality, while subsequently launching Ruth's career as an author and media personality (via The Jerusalem Post).

Ruth has been married three times in her life (via Moment). However, she maintains that it was her third husband, Manfred Westheimer, who was her true love. "We shared everything during our marriage. He supported my career when I was just starting as a radio talk show host in the 80s, coming with me every Sunday when I recorded the program at WYNY," she said. "I don't know for sure if relationships can be beshert [a Jewish word for soulmate, per TheJC.com], maybe, but what I do know is that Fred was the right husband for me." 

The couple shared one child together, a son named Joel. In addition, Manfred adopted Ruth's daughter from a previous relationship, Miriam. The couple met in 1961 and were married until Manfred's death in 1997, per Biography. In addition to Ruth's sweet love story with her husband and long lasting career, she's lived an exceptional life.

Dr. Ruth's life was upended by the Nazis

Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born in Frankfurt, Germany shortly before the lead up to World War II. The sex therapist grew up as the only child in a well-to-do Jewish family. Her father, Julius Siegel, was said to have a library of books that first allowed Westheimer to cultivate her interest in human sexuality, per Biography. When the Nazis rose to power in Germany, Westheimer's father was taken and her remaining family members left the country in hopes of escaping their violence and persecution — it goes without saying, Westheimer's early life was tragic. 

Upon fleeing from Germany, Westheimer was sent to a school in Switzerland for orphaned refugees. She never saw her family members again and believes that they died in the concentration camps. During her time at the school, Westheimer was mistreated and forced to work as a maid. While living at the facility, she created alarm among the teachers in regard to her open nature and willingness to speak about human sexuality matters to her fellow classmates.

Dr. Ruth was a trained sniper

At the age of 16, Dr. Ruth Westheimer moved to Israel and joined an underground Jewish military organization called Haganah, via Snopes. During her time with the group, Westheimer was trained to be a lookout and a sniper. However, she maintains that she never actually shot a person. "When I was in my routine training for the Israeli army as a teenager, they discovered completely by chance that I was a lethal sniper. I could hit the target smack in the center further away than anyone could believe," she said. "Not just that, even though I was tiny and not even much of an athlete, I was incredibly accurate throwing hand grenades too. Even today I can load a Sten automatic rifle in a single minute, blindfolded." 

Although she was a skilled shooter, Westheimer was forced to cut her military career short when she suffered a leg injury. She recalled that her "legs were almost ripped off" during a bombing if her residence, where she lived with other students. Three fellow students were killed on the spot, and a number of others were injured, including Westheimer — metal pierced her in both of her legs, and she was thrown about 20 feet due to the blast. It was her 20th birthday.  

Dr. Ruth embraces her defining features

Dr. Ruth Westheimer — who has a surprising net worth — is one of the most recognizable personalities of all time. Of course, her voice is easily distinguishable with its kind tone and thick German accent. Ruth has admitted over the years that she was told to lose the accent that led some fans to deem her "Grandma Freud." Mental Floss noted that the therapist admitted that some people advised her to take speech lessons in an effort to alter her voice. However, she's embraced her accent, revealing that it's benefited her career. "It helped me greatly because when people turned on the radio, they knew it was me," she said.

In addition to her accent, Westheimer's height is often something that people quickly take notice of. The doctor stands just 4 feet, 7 inches tall. However, she again counts herself lucky, joking that her small stature allowed her to spark up conversations with men as a young coed. " I was lucky to be so small, because when I was studying at the Sorbonne, there was very little space in the auditoriums and I could always find a good-looking guy to put me up on a windowsill," Westheimer quipped.

Dr. Ruth has lived in the same apartment for over 50 years

Dr. Ruth Westheimer appears to be a creature of habit. The sex therapist may be known for her interesting, at times heartbreaking, life. However, she also keeps the things she loves close to her. One of the most prized possessions seems to be her three-bedroom apartment in Washington Heights, New York, where she's lived for more than five decades. "I wanted it badly because of the view. I walk in, go to the windows and see this sight, this largeness and the river and the George Washington Bridge and I said, 'That's what I have to have,'" Ruth told The New York Times

Ruth revealed that when she first saw the space, she was worried that she and her husband wouldn't be able to afford, as it cost $25 more than their previous apartment. However, when she asked a lawyer to look over her finances, she was given the green light to scoop up her dream home. After living in the apartment for many years, the building went co-op. Ruth noted her husband, Manfred Westheimer, wanted to continue to rent their home, but she knew she had to buy it. "My husband said: 'We are renting. We don't have to buy.' He was rather — frugal. And I said, 'I need to buy it,'" she admitted. "For many years, I didn't have a home. So my apartment is extraordinarily precious." 

There's an off-Broadway play about Dr. Ruth's life

Dr. Ruth Westheimer's life is certainly one for the books. The renowned therapist has lived such a fascinating life, that an off-Broadway play was even written about her exciting journey and famous career in the world of sexual health. Broadway.com noted that while the masses know Westheimer as the chirpy therapist who implores honesty and openness, not many people know about the struggles she faced as a young person. "From fleeing the Nazis in the Kindertransport and joining the Haganah in Jerusalem as a scout and sniper, to her struggles to succeed as a single mother coming to America, 'Becoming Dr. Ruth' is filled with humor, honesty and life-affirming spirit," the Broadway outlet noted. 

The show starred actress Debra Jo Rupp of "That 70s Show" fame as Westheimer. When asked about portraying the iconic doctor, Rupp told Times Union, "I have so much admiration for her. I so want to do right by her." As for Rupp's opinion of Westheimer, she noted that the doctor is deeper than anyone knows. "She carries an unbelievable life on those little shoulders," she said. 

It's clear that Westheimer has had a lasting impact on many with her life story, as well as her work.