Nudity throughout history

By ALEXIS HAUK  |  March 17, 2010

"Full nakedness! All my joys are due to thee; as souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be, to taste whole joys."
John Donne, "Elegy XX: To His Mistress Going to Bed"

Naked Boston: Spring is here, so take off all your clothes. By Alexis Hauk.

Students gone wild: Tufts naked quad run. By Alexis Hauk.
Okay, so maybe New England doesn't have the richest history of embracing nude culture. No one's going to argue that Puritan New England was Jersey Shore when it came to the body and public displays of affection. In 1656, a Bostonian sea captain returned home from a three-year voyage and kissed his own wife on his doorstep, for which he had to spend two hours in the public stocks for "lewd and unseemly" behavior. Yikes. And as we all know, were a lady to show even a little ankle, she'd be considered a harlot. (Hester Prynne's scarlet "A" actually stood for "ankle").

But when it comes down to it, New England has some historically rooted nudity enthusiasts. Founding father Benjamin Franklin, whose parents are interred at the Granary Burying Ground along the Freedom Trail, took daily naked "air baths." So did Henry David Thoreau, who adopted a transcendental approach to the idea of clothing at Walden Pond.

Sixth US President John Quincy Adams, Quincy's namesake, relied on a nude dip in the Potomac to get his presidential juices flowing. And Brookline-born John F. Kennedy brought a whole new level of scandal to the skinny-dipping tradition at the White House pool, with co-ed pool parties in the buff. (Of course, the mental image of Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower holding "meetings" in said pool makes one recoil.) The late Ted Kennedy was also, naturally, a fan of going au natural. And just last year folks found a nude photo of Jackie Kennedy Onassis in Andy Warhol's collection — perhaps sent as a joke by Jackie herself.

Founder of the ACLU, Robert Nash Baldwin (the lost Baldwin brother!), was born in Wellesley and earned a degree at Harvard. It's no surprise, then, that the defender of free speech enjoyed letting his body speak freely, too.

Theodore Geisel, a/k/a Dr. Seuss, a Springfield native, made waves with his first book, The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History'sBarest Family, published in 1939, about seven constantly naked women who must find their own way after their father dies. Needless to say, copies aren't flying off the shelves of Borders' children's section (although TheCat in the Hat, let's be serious, ain't got much on either).

Incidentally, King George III was also a skinny-dipper. And one has to wonder: if only the patriots had realized how much they had in common with that diabolical monarch, we might not have all these neo-teabaggers (ahem, Tea Partiers) in the 21st century.

Related: Obama's year two to-do's, Naked Boston, Students gone wild, More more >
  Topics: Lifestyle Features , U.S. Government, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Donne,  More more >
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