Mary Steichen Calderone, physician, author and founder of SIECUS — the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States — has shown a generation of Americans the importance of early and honest sex education in families, churches, schools and communities.
After an education at Brearly School in New York, Vassar College and the University of Rochester Medical School, with graduate work in public health at Columbia University, Calderone served as physician to the public schools of Great Neck, New York, for several years before becoming medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1953.
Her greatest achievement came as co-founder, in 1964, of SIECUS. Serving as its president from 1975 to 1982, Calderone and SIECUS fought to gain recognition of the idea that sexuality reflects the entire human character, not solely our gender-nature. Working to ensure that children receive a sound foundation in sex education at home and at school, Calderone has helped young people understand and appreciate their own sexuality. Her numerous books have taught thousands of confused and reluctant parents how to explain sex and sexuality to their children.
Calderone’s work has been recognized through numerous awards including the Margaret Sanger Award from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Schlesinger Library of Radcliffe/Harvard College, and the Award for Human Service from the Mental Health Association of New York.
Summarizing Calderone’s contributions, People magazine wrote: “What Margaret Sanger did for birth control and Rachel Carson [did] for the environment, Calderone . . . has done for sex education. Her work, like theirs, has profoundly changed the quality of life in this century.”