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A Brief History of Naturism/Nudism

For most of human history, nudity was a natural and normal part of life. People were nude when environment
and conditions favoured it. The "bathing suit" is a very recent invention dating back only about a century. It is
only with the advent of scientific advancement and industrialization that humans began to be ashamed of their
bodies. As we began to replace the natural world with manufactured goods, we grew to see all that was not
man-made as imperfect. The human body became an object of shame to be hidden and shaped by clothing.
Naturism began as a self-help reform movement in reaction to
the debilitating aspects of industrialization and urbanization
during the nineteenth century. At a time when medicine could
neither explain nor cure disease, many people believed that
crowded and unsanitary cities, tenement housing, restrictive
victorian clothing, and oppressive working conditions all led to
poor health and rampant illness. Some observers concluded that
what people needed was exposure to the natural healing
elements or fresh air, sunlight, and water--preferably with loose
or absent clothing. An informal coalition of natural lifestyle
reform movements took shape during the late nineteenth
century, combining clothing reform, vegetarianism, abstinence
from alcohol and tobacco, and naturopathy. Inevitably some
pioneers suggested that nudity must be an integral part of
lifestyle reform. Nudism found expression in several books
written in Germany at the end of the century by Heinrich Pudor and Richard Ungewitter, and the idea
received cultural support when the first modern Olympic Games in Athens drew attention to classical
From theory it was a short step to practice. Experimental clubs opened in Germany, and later in France and
England as places where individuals could practice their natural lifestyle without outside iterference (as long as

they stayed on private property). Since the early clubs were experiments in
natural living, they imposed the full natural regimen on all guests: nudity rain or shine, abstinence,
vegetarianism, and mandatory callisthenics. Many guests decided that the practice was not as attractive as the
theory, but while some of them deserted the cause completely, others noticed that the social nudity had a
positive psychological effect which they all appreciated. When people removed their cultural body armor they felt
freer and less stressed than during their everyday lives. People were who they were, not what they pretended to
be behind their textile uniforms, jewelry, and makeup. This relaxed social ambiance became the hallmark of
twentieth century social nudism.
Several other trends hastened the transition from naturism to nudism. The youth generation at the turn of the
century embraced the great outdoors, and went off hiking and canoeing around the countryside--often nude, and
often in mixed groups. Western society underwent a sort of sexual liberation at this time, and relaxed many of its
moral standards. The First World War had a similar effect. As a result nudism was poised for rapid growth
during the 1920s, especially in Germany, where tens of thousands of
people romped in clubs, free beaches, and city parks and swimming pools. But other countries experience
nudism too, including the Sparta Club in France and Spielplatz in England. National magazines were well
established also Health & Efficiency in Britain, Vivre d'Abord in France. In 1931 representatives from the
various clubs and societies gathered in Germany to form an international nudist organization. But the depression
years were not the best time to start new ventures, and this early experiment came to an end. Yet the pioneers
had established nudism on a sound footing, and it would revive and flourish in Europe after the next war.
Nudism in North America followed the European pattern. Bernarr Macfadden, an early pioneer of health reform,
promoted natural living in his Physical Culture magazine and at his Physical Culture City, as did William Call in
his Common Sense Clubs. But the first true nudist club was formed in New York State by Kurt Barthel and a
handful of german immigrants. Their Sky Farm Club became home to the early International Nudist Conference,
which attracted Ilsley "Uncle Danny" Boone, who seized control, reorganized the American Sunbathing
Association, and launched Sunshine & Health. Other clubs soon appeared in nearby states, the Midwest, and
California. When ASA members rebelled against his one-man show, he left to form the National Nudist Council.

Naturism/Nudism in Canada
In Canada, individuals around the country became interested in
nudism, skinny dipping, or physical culture, and occasionally found
their way to American or European magazines. After 1940 they had
their own Canadian magazine, Sunbathing & Health, which occasionally
carried local news. Canadians had scattered groups in several cities during
the 1930s and 1940s, and some of these groups attracted enough interest
to form clubs on private land; the most significant clubs were the Van Tans
in Vancouver and the Sun Air Club in Ontario. Canadians who served in the
military during the war met like-minded souls from across the country, and
often visited clubs while in Europe. They formed a ready pool of recruits for
postwar organizers. A few years later the wave of postwar immigration
brought many Europeans with their own extensive experience, and they not
only swelled the ranks of membership, but often formed their own clubs,
helping to expand nudism from coast to coast. Most of these clubs were
united under the Canadian Sunbathing Association, which affiliated with the
American Sunbathing Association in 1954. Several disagreements between
eastern and western members of CSA resulted in the breakup of CSA into
the Western Canadian Sunbathing Association (WCSA) and Eastern
Canadian Sunbathing Association (ECSA) in 1960. The ECSA endured much in fighting over the next decade
and a half leading to its official demise in 1978. The WCSA continues to exist today as the Western Canadian
Association for Nude Recreation (WCANR), a region of the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR)
which itself was formerly known as the ASA.
In 1977 the Fédération québécoise de naturisme (FQN) was founded in Québec by Michel Vaïs. In 1986, Doug
Beckett, Helen Beckett and Petra Scheller, with the support of the FQN, formed the Federation of Canadian
Naturists (FCN). The FQN and FCN joined together to be the official Canadian representatives in the
International Naturist Federation (INF).
Social trends caught up with social nudism, and surpassed it, during
the Sixties. The sexual revolution produced a generation that was
more nonchalant towards nudity and morality, and this affected mass
popular culture in magazines like Playboy (as well as the nudist
magazines, which won several major court decisions in the Fifties) and in
movies. The new generation assumed that nudity was natural, and therefore
appropriate almost anywhere. The result was the Free Beach movement,
starting in California and spreading rapidly. They also dismissed the quaint
restrictions of club nudism--no touching, no hand-holding, no singles. This
casual, informal, unstructured form of nudism acquired the term naturism to
distinguish it from more traditional club and organizational nudism, and grew
rapidly. But club nudism remains popular for family nudism, for those who
appreciate a regular group of friends and acquaintances, and for those who
seek the protection of private property. Together, they make
naturism/nudism an increasingly popular lifestyle offering the same goals as
it did a hundred years ago--an escape from the urbanized industrialized stressed-out civilization that still
surrounds us.
For a complete history of naturism/nudism in Canada, visit