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Mary Steichen Calderone was a physician and leader in public health, birth control and sex education. She graduated from Vassar in 1925 and the University of Rochester Medical School in 1939, and she received an M.A. in public health from Columbia in 1942. She worked as a physician for the public schools in Great Neck, New York, before becoming medical director for the Planned Parenthood Federation from 1953 to 1964.
Calderone went on to help found the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS) and served as executive director and president. During her years with SIECUS, she traveled thousands of miles, addressing high school and college students, parents, educators, religious leaders and professional groups. A compelling speaker, she was especially popular with youthful audiences who appreciated her candid, no-nonsense factual replies to their questions. Calderone spearheaded a virtual revolution in liberalizing American attitudes toward sex education, and as a result, she became the target of extremist groups.
Although she remained in close contact with SIECUS, Calderone resigned from the presidency in May 1982. She continued to speak internationally on the subject of sex education and other topics, such as aging and sexuality and sex for the physically handicapped. She served as an adjunct professor in the human sexuality program at the University of New York between 1983 and 1988.
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