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Celebrating the Birthday of a Sex Ed Heroine

Susie N. WilsonHappy Birthday, Susie!

Things were a little different in 1930. The US had 48 states, and a population of nearly 123,000,000. Milk cost 14 cents per quart, and bread, nine cents a loaf. But, to be honest, times were pretty hard then.

President Herbert Hoover was facing a national debt of $16 billion and skyrocketing unemployment as the Great Depression intensified. For those who were fortunate enough even to have a job, the average annual salary was $1,368.

In one very special way, however, 1930 was a pretty wonderful year. For on January 17th, 1930, a sex ed heroine was born: Susan Neuberger Wilson. We at Answer would like to celebrate our dear friend by commandeering her blog today and sharing a bit about her amazing history and accomplishments with you.

Susie was raised in New York City, attended the Brearley School and then Vassar. She worked after college as an education reporter for Life magazine in New York where she met foreign correspondent, Donald Wilson, whom she later married.

Susie and Don moved to Washington, where he became President John F. Kennedy’s deputy press secretary and later the deputy director of the US Information Service. Susie’s close relationship with Robert and Ethel Kennedy had a significant impact on her, especially a trip she took with them in 1962 to some of the poorest parts of Asia. Susie returned fired up about taking action, and began tutoring lower-income children in Washington. She earned a master’s degree in early childhood education, and was instrumental in helping to start the first school for White House children.

Over 40 years ago, she and Don moved to Princeton, and Susie, a mother of three, remained active in childhood education. But 1978 became another significant milestone for her, when she was appointed to the New Jersey State Board of Education. Susie famously asked the commissioner of health at the time at what age he thought children needed to know how their bodies work. When he could not provide her with an answer, a sex ed force to be reckoned with was born.

Susie’s fight for age-appropriate, medically-accurate sexuality education in public schools opened her to vitriolic criticism from opponents to comprehensive sexuality education. Unfazed and determined, Susie continued the fight—and New Jersey is now a model state in the provision of comprehensive sexuality education in the United States. Susie devoted 23 years to the Network for Family Life Education, now Answer, as the executive coordinator, and remains extremely involved as our most trusted advisor. Susie’s passion extends far beyond sexuality education to women’s health and rights, and she continues to lobby legislators actively at the local, state and federal levels for their support. A brilliant, compelling writer, Susie’s blogs, Sex Ed Honestly and Sex Matters, never cease to make us think or challenge us to be better people.

Beyond her vastly impressive resume, Susie is also someone to be appreciated quite simply for who she is. Spending time with her is like enjoying a seven-course meal—each moment is to be appreciated slowly, has many layers to it and leaves one feeling sated for the time being but wanting more. Chances are Susie will begin her 80th birthday as she does every other morning—by running six miles. My hope is that she will take some time out during this special day to reflect on the wide-reaching impact she has had on sexuality education and women’s rights for more people than I think she can even begin to imagine—just as I know that, rather than rest on her laurels, she has already begun her “to do” list for all the work she intends to accomplish in the decade to come!

Happy birthday, dearest Susie, with deepest gratitude from us all!

If you would like to leave Susie a birthday greeting, simply click here to register as a member of the Answer Web site and leave your comments.

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  • Happy Birthday, dear Susie! - Love, Judy

  • I keep on following you, but never catching up –not just in age, but in working to help all people get the education about sexuality and intimacy that they yearn for and deserve. You continue to be an illuminating beacon, lighting the way forward for all of us. You are to live for!! Love, Bob Selverstone

  • Happy birthday, Susie! What a pleasure it is to continue the work that you started.

  • Happy Birthday, Susie! As I travel around NJ and around the country continuing the work you started all those years ago, I always begin my trainings tell your story and the history of Answer. I feel grateful to you for the sex education I received as a NJ student and proud to be on staff at Answer. Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful, happy day!

  • If I’m lucky enough to live to be a healthy, glowing just about 80-year-old, I can only hope that I will have had the impact that you’ve had. Thank you for all that you’ve done and all you continue to do. The world is a better place because you were born. Happy Birthday!

    With much love and affection, Lucinda

  • Susie~
    When I think of you & one word to describe you, I think of gumption! Yes, GUMPTION! You are an inspiration AND a movement. I am proud to have been an editorial board member (’00-’01) and intern…& lifelong advocate for our cause! Happy 80th and PLEASE do something AMAZING just for yourself!

  • Dear, dear Susie,

    I add my voice to a big celebration of YOU. You began inspiring me and countless other sexuality educators in New Jersey and around the country over 25 years ago, and you still do so. We are so lucky to have you continuing to fight for what is right and just. Happy birthday, dear friend!
    Lots of love~

  • Dear Susie,

    Happy 80th birthday! As I reflect on your upcoming birthday, I can draw a direct correlation between meeting you a decade ago and my passion for trying to make change in the world. Ten years later, you continue to be an inspiration, an example, and a phenomenal resource. As I always tell you, I want to be like you when I grow up!

    Enjoy your day and please do something for Susie!

    All my love and gratitude,

  • Dear Susie,
    I hope you will bask in the love and respect that so many of us feel for you. Happy Birthday,Susie!!!

  • Dear Susie,

    Happy Birthday! Our lives are all richer because you are a part of them. I still remember the day I met you 17 years ago after your eye-opening speech. Your passion, selflessness, intellect, and energy are inspirational. The youth of NJ - and this entire country - are better off because of your great work.

    Thanks for all that you do! Happy Birthday!
    -Lisa Wolff

  • Hey Susie! I want to let you know that you are well appreciated and meeting you was great! I hope we get a chance to meet again and talk in the near future! Have a great birthday!!
    With love,
    Colleen Tierney<3

  • Hi Susie,
    I hope your birthday is filled with joy and happiness! You are admired by so many people. Keep up the good work :)

    Carly Schlecker, teen staff writer

    p.s. good for you for running 6 miles everyday!!!!

  • Happy Birthday Susie!
    I hope you have an amazing day, you certainly deserve it! Thank you so much for all that you have done.
    Best Wishes,
    Melanie Johnson, teen staff writer

  • Dearest Susie,

    Happy Birthday! I hope you have one that’s as motivating, wonderful, exciting, and fantastic as you are! You are truly an inspiration to us all. Thank you for creating this great organization that has helped and benefited so many young people and adults everywhere. Once again, happy birthday!

    Yours truly,
    Cynthia Lam - teen staff writer

  • Dear Susie,
    Happy Birthday!! Thank you so much for aeverything you’ve done through the years. the world simply wouldnt be the same place without you!!!
    Sara Racek- teen staff writer

  • Happy Birthday Susie! You are an incredible and overwhelming inspiration to us all. May the rest of us even begin to do as much as you have for our communities, local and global. Thank you for creating this amazing organization, and for better defining the essential needs it serves. But thank you most of all for your example which has inspired me and many others to try to do as much good as possible, and with good humor!

  • Dear Susie-
    You changed my life by allowing me to work with you at the Network more than 10 years ago! Your commitment to sex education for our nation’s youth is inspiring and I am so proud to have worked with you for all these years. Sex, Etc. is a beacon for young people desperate for information often censored by uneducated adults. Your passion, dedication and energy are unmatched and I am so grateful to be counted among your friends. Happy 80th birthday and here’s to another decade of comprehensive sex education for our nation’s youth!
    With love,

  • Dear Susie,
    Happy Birthday! You are the kind of strong woman I strive to be. Thank you for being such an inspiring trailblazer! You deserve every happiness imaginable.
    Lexi Gelperin

  • The world would be safer and healthier place with more like you. Love and happy birthday.

  • Dearest Susie,
    So many have said it all. You continue to be a pioneer and are the role model for so many of us. You are the intelligent voice of sexuality education, and give all of us so much of your wisdom and insight. You have always worked hard and never needed accolades to let people know how much you have done. This is one more thing that makes you extra special to me. Happy Birthday wonderful woman and role model!!!! Love, Konnie

  • Happy Birthday Susie! I am so proud to be able to say that I work for Answer and continue the work that you started so many years ago. You are truly an inspiration. I hope you have a wonderful day!

    With love and admiration, Dan

  • Dear Susie,

    Thank you so much for being a shining example of what one woman can do with conviction and concern for others. Whenever I feel like I can’t do something I always reflect on Answer and the confidence I gained by being selected for Sex, ETC. and the board, and on all the work you’ve done over years to give New Jersey students the knowledge they need to lead safe, healthy lives. We are all so lucky to have you in our world. Happy happy birthday and many more!!!

    Gratefully, with all best wishes,

  • Susie!

    Today is the big day and I’m thinking about you and thinking about you. Simply put: Where would we all be without you?? You were the one who first saw that the Internet was made for US in the sexuality education field–censorship, evasion, and silence were no longer going to rule. Dr. Ruth made it safe to talk about sex on the airwaves, and our Susie made it safe for kids to learn about sex on the Internet.

    By the way, when I turned 60 people said to me, “Oh didn’t you know, 60 is the new……40! So, Susie dear, happy 60th!!

    Love and undying admiration,


  • Happy birthday, Susie! Hopefully the nasty weather isn’t getting in the way of fantastic birthday celebrations. They should last much longer than a day, anyway :) Thank you for all of your hard work and advocacy, and for the inspiration and reminder of what a difference one passionate person can make in the world of sex ed.

    Here’s to many more years of passion and seeing more positive change!

  • You’ve blazed an incredible trail in New Jersey and beyond. Today, advocates and educators around the country are trying to do what you did in New Jersey — pass a policy to support school-based implementation of sex ed and then implement it! It is a testament to your vision, your tenacity, your willingness to put so much of yourself into the effort to bring honest sex ed to young people. Happy 80th birthday!

  • Dear Susie,

    I’m a day late but not short on affection and respect for you. Happy Belated Birthday. I hope it was a wonderful day and that you are basking in the glow of all the love and admiration that your colleagues and friends feel for you!


    Pam Wilson

  • Susie,

    Happy (Belated) Birthday!!!!

    Thank you so much for everything you have done for the field of sexual health education! You’ve been an inspiration to all of us who have worked with you to continue to bring comprehensive sex ed to our nation. I was honored to get the chance to meet you when working with Sex, Etc. and I am so grateful to get the opportunity to wish you a happy birthday! Wishing you many more years of activism ahead!

    All My Best,

    Tiffany E. Cook

  • Happy birthday susie.You are a great person and inspiration to us all. Have a nice day.

  • Happy Birthday Susie,

    May be you educate our kids like this

  • I must point out your courage to raise such an important subject of sex education in the puritanical society of those days. Well done and many happy returns!

  • Happy Birthday Susie. Hopefully our kids can be like you

  • Happy (Belated) Birthday!!!!

    Thank you so much for everything you have done for the field of sexual health education! Great article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post. Thanks so much and let keep on sharing your stuffs You’ve been an inspiration to all of us who have worked with you to continue to bring comprehensive sex ed to our nation.

  • Great blog…

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my friend were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a book from our area library but I think I learned better from this post. I’m very glad to see such great information being shared freely out th…

  • that was great Susie. Happy bday!

  • Happy Birthday Susie. Hopefully our kids can be like you

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