Naturism has a history of helping in troubled times.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sunbathing was found to be useful for the treatment of Tuberculosis, a lethal infectious disease, as well as other ailments. To help the suffering, sanitoriums were set up in the mountains of Europe to provide patients sun and air baths, preferably in the nude. The combination of rest, fresh air, and sunshine (with its disinfecting and vitamin D producing qualities) helped bodies to heal. Ultimately, this practice was adopted by otherwise healthy people, and a Naturheilbewegung (Nature Healing Movement) emerged in Germany, which became the foundation for the early Nudist Movement.
After World War I, much of Europe and particularly Germany was impoverished and weak. The Nudist Movement grew substantially during this time not merely as a form of recreation, but as a way to regain health. A person from that era described it as follows:
“From early childhood, my sister, brother and I were brought up by our parents among the nudists of Germany, in times when the World War was at its ending and nudism was in everybody’s mind as a possible means of overcoming the misery and suffering of the young generation during those sad days. It was to be a methodical introduction of a new movement, derived from the traditional institutions of athletics and sports and medical scientific centers already in existence. So, nudism was related to the imperative necessity of restoring the youth of Germany to their normal strength, rebuilding them body and mind and soul by a thoroughly healthy and simple life, including calisthenics, fresh air, sun, games and rest.” 1
While things ultimately went awry in Germany, setting in motion another world war, for a time and for a portion of their populace, the embrace of nudism was restorative in the wake of disaster.
In the United States, the initiation of the Nudist Movement is considered by many to have occurred in 1929, just a few weeks before the great stock market crash and the start of the Great Depression. 2 Despite economic hard times, or perhaps in response to them, the movement grew in numbers and enthusiasm throughout that time. The early pioneers suffered arrest, persecution, and other challenges, but they found in this pastime a physically, mentally, and morally enriching way of life and a community that offered many benefits without requiring a great deal of money.
After World War II, Nudism flourished in several countries behind the iron curtain including East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, Russia, and others. Not much is documented as to why this was so, but one can imagine that the feeling of freedom Naturists experience when they shed their clothes is something that could have considerable appeal to people living under an authoritarian regime.
It is now the spring of 2020, and much of the world is beset by a harsh viral pandemic and in a state of severe economic distress. Practicing Naturism will not solve these problems. However, history shows that Naturism can be helpful in endowing its practitioners with physical health, mental comfort, and up-lifted spirits to help them endure and persevere. Judging by the chatter on social media, it does appear that many people, subject to various lock-down and work from home restrictions, are taking advantage of this opportunity to enjoy some clothesfree living. Interestingly, this seems to be the case not just with veteran Naturists but also some normally textiled folks as well. Perhaps history will repeat, and we will see a fresh pulse of interest in Naturism as Corona Lock-down Naturist Newbies rush for the sunshine when constraints get relaxed. It would be a good thing if more enjoyed the benefits of this wholesome practice.
1 Gertrude L. von Hausmann, “American Nudism as Seen by a German,” The Nudist, December 1933, Vol. II #10.