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EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: Dr. Ruth Westheimer

Lifetime - Dr. Ruth Westheimer - August 27, 1084, therapist Westheimer addressed sexual-performance issues in this advice series. (Agency reference - 93765560)
Courtesy of Donna Svennevik/ABC via Getty Images (1984)
Lifetime - Dr. Ruth Westheimer - August 27, 1084, therapist Westheimer addressed sexual-performance issues in this advice series. (Agency reference - 93765560)

Airs Friday, July 11, 2014 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

They seemed to have it all – glamour, power, wealth and adoration. Grace Kelly, Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn, Indira Gandhi, Madame Chiang Kai-shek... they were worshiped, loved and sometimes even feared by millions the world over. These were the pioneers who showed that a woman could be the equal of any man. But behind the public success, there was so often private heartache and personal tragedy. Featuring archive, interviews and dramatic re-enactment, this series reveals the price these extraordinary women paid for their achievements. Yet in the end, they overcame all adversities to emerge as triumphant, inspirational icons of the 20th century.

"Dr. Ruth Westheimer" - Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the world's most famous sex therapist, but that is almost the least remarkable thing about here. For she has led many lives. Born to a German Jewish family in 1928, Ruth’s happy childhood was shattered when Adolf Hitler came to power and Jews were reduced to subhuman status. Her parents then made the ultimate sacrifice, sending their daughter to safety on the Kindertransport to Switzerland. They would die in the Holocaust.

The fate of her parents and her pride in her Jewish roots led the orphaned Ruth to become an ardent Zionist, traveling to Palestine after the end of World War II, where she was trained as a sniper by the Jewish underground. She was even wounded by shrapnel.

But then two marriages led her to the other side of the globe – first to France, and then to the United States – and some of the world’s finest universities. In New York she became a single, working mother, before meeting her soul mate, Manfred Westheimer, by whom she had another child.

Ruth went from academic psychologist to sex therapist as a result of a project she worked for highlighting the benefits of birth control. A chance encounter led her to being invited onto a radio show and so "Dr. Ruth" was born. Dr. Ruth Westheimer has become a household name as the self-styled grandma Freud who talks frankly about all things sex. But it’s her Jewish roots and experiences that continue to shape her life. This is the story of one woman’s extraordinary capacity for re-invention and survival.

You can follow @AskDrRuth on Twitter, and watch videos on Dr. Ruth's Official YouTube Channel.

Distributed by BBC Worldwide

EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN: Dr. Ruth Westheimer Preview

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