Nudism is an interesting aspect of life here at Yale, but surprisingly, a very old one, steeped in years of tradition as well as torment and persecution. Through extensive research, I have discovered that the practice of nudism has an older history than either Yale or New Haven, extending back all the way to the Quinnipiac Settlement. I have unearthed court records from the trial of Quinnipiac’s first known nudist: the “Whore of Quinnipiac.” The so-called “Whore of Quinnipiac” is sadly not known by any other name, so authenticating her existence had always been a source of debate among scholars. Some believed that she was simply a bedtime story, an old nanny’s conjuring, to frighten young children into sleep, submission and the shackles of modern vestments. Others have speculated that she was, in fact, a real person, a revolutionary martyr for the cause of nudism in colonial New England.

After much careful research, I have discovered that the Whore of Quinnipiac did exist. As had been previously proposed by the German scholar Hans van der Schleiditinher in the early half of the 1980s, the Whore of Quinnipiac was tried not only on charges of public nudity, but the frightened townspeople also sought to bring her down as a witch.

What follows are court records dating from circa 1600, during the climax of her trial — her interrogation by the renowned colonial lawman James Cochring.

Cochring: Is it not the case that thou art naught but a white-livered rogue, toothless Whore of Quinnipiac?

W.O.Q: I merely wish to be free of the confinement of mine corset. I see not the harm that causeth my frolicking in the Virgin forest!

Cochring: Thou spake heated words, Whore of Quinnipiac! Thine savage friends hath also run amok in our peaceful Christian settlement. What sayeth thou?

W.O.Q.: My company is none of your concern, good sir Cochring.

Cochring: Is it not the case, Whore of Quinnipiac, that thine savage friends, Spreading Eagle and his squaw Pochalottus hath also been without garments?

W.O.Q.: I repeat good sir, that I seeth not a single wrong that I hath committed.

Cochring: Thou art a fork-tongued knave, Whore of Quinnipiac! Is it not also the case that thou hast danced naked as Eve in the afternoon sun of our fair colony, in plain sight, for all to see your pagan ways?

W.O.Q.: Good sir, I see no reason why I am kept bound by garments. The first creations of our Lord were in fact nude as the wild beasts of the Subcontinent! ‘Tis not a crime to be free!

Cochring: Do not feed me thine Satanic prophecies, Whore of Quinnipiac! Thou speakest as if thine soul were inhabited by Lucifer himself! Thou hast spake as if thine knowledge of the loving gift of shame from our Lord in heaven may be somehow lacking. Art thou saved, thieving Whore of Quinnipiac?

W.O.Q.: Aye, sir.

Cochring: Then, expound to me, Whore of Quinnipiac, mad-headed ape, why it be the case that Goody Strappond hath seen thee in the likeness of a cat floating upon the sea. Hast thou, bewitched soulless Whore of Quinnipiac, signed thine name in Satan’s black book?

W.O.Q.: Listen to me, sir Cochring, I canst find no fault within myself. Perchance thou accusethest me of a faultering within thine own self.

Cochring: Thine yonder womanly wiles hath no effect upon me, you lewd Jezebel! I shant fall victim to thine come hither grin! Hast thou been beguiled by the serpent, Whore of Quinnipiac, brazen strumpet of the eastern woods of New South Haven Bridgeportfordshire?!

W.O.Q.: Nay, good sir.

Cochring: How canst thine supple, lascivious lips speaketh in such a manner, lusty Whore of Quinnipiac? Thine lies floweth all too easily out of thine skillful mouth! Thou willst burn, Whore of Quinnipiac, like the burning of thine hellbound loins!

Later in that same year, the Whore of Quinnipiac was burned at the stake. Sadly, this was a low, hard blow to the cause of nudism. The effect that the Whore of Quinnipiac had on the community that was to become New Haven is present all around us, and indeed fills our history. The very millstones that we walk upon each day in the Saybrook courtyard are from a nudist mill, renowned not only for its workers’ lack of clothes, but also for the quality of its flour and the rigorous grinding that took place there. Some have even proposed theories of the presence of the Whore of Quinnipiac at the first Thanksgiving because of several references to “innermost thighs scalded by hot cranberry sauce.” Despite this, little attention has been paid to the Whore of Quinnipiac.

It was not until the 1950s that she finally was given the attention her naked female body deserved. A New Haven socialite, Bettina Kegel, began one of the area’s first secret societies dedicated to reviving the practice of nudism, but altering it to be within the confines of etiquette practices of the day. Eventually, she published a book under the pseudonym W.O.Q. Kegel, an obvious reference to the then virtually unknown Whore of Quinnipiac. This book, entitled, “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Nudist Parties,” caused quite a scandal. Though currently out of print, during my thorough search of Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, I was able to uncover a dog-eared, dusty copy. The following is an excerpt, illustrating the evolution of nudism since the blue-nippled New England winters of the Whore of Quinnipiac:

“The one thing a modern nude hostess must always be sure of is never to endanger the well-being of her party guests. It is of the utmost importance that she remember to cover any rough furniture with new soft linens, and to avoid serving foods that splatter such as fondue or anything with hot gravy. The former zeitgeist of the forties, Bacon Parties are not recommended as the hot grease could cause searing of the unmentionables. Proper party cuisine should enhance the theme. It is with this in mind that I cook for my parties. My nudist party cuisine has been primarily composed of bananas, cocktail wieners, clams on the half shell and a delightful cocktail I once stumbled upon when all I had left in the house was mango juice, rum and some imported monkey placenta. I named it the ‘Madame B’Ovary’ as I was in the middle of my love affair with French literature.

“In addition to the decor and fare, careful attention must be paid to the dress. I realize that while the term ‘nudist’ implies a complete revealing of the genitals reminiscent of my locker room days at Smith College, it certainly does not rule out accessorizing. Why, I used to be known for my formal nudist parties. The men wore bow ties and the women pearls. The proper placement of an accessory also draws attention away from unsightly bodily flaws, Mother Nature’s cruel little jokes and of course any shortcomings you, or your husband, might have. Just remember not to get too creative with your accessories. It is a nudist party after all. Some gentlemen tend to go overboard after several drinks, so make sure to keep an eye on your husband. At one of my white tie nude cotillions, I once saw a guest trying to demonstrate something he saw native shamans in Papua New Guinea do, and with a clip-on tie no less!

“Needless to say, he was rushed to the local hospital. Safety is your number one concern, not just for yourself, but for your husband as well. Just keep things under control and make sure he, unlike my unfortunate yet terribly well-traveled party guest, doesn’t lose his head.” (Kegel 74)

Bettina Kegel herself suffered a fate similar to the Whore of Quinnipiac, but not nearly as grave. After the publishing of her book, she was ousted from New England society and exiled to Paris. After her arrival however, she translated her book and became an instant celebrity and darling of the French press, like a nudist Jerry Lewis.

Today nudism is no longer the taboo topic it once was. Today it is our right and pleasure to freely commit acts of full-frontal nudity and no one blinks an eye. This was most certainly not the case in Quinnipiac where auto-da-fe resulted from even the most casual public flashing.

Fortunately for Betty Kegel, the France of fifty years ago was a haven for nudists, as long as they were gentiles. At long last, New Haven has caught up with our brie-hoarding friends across the Atlantic, and thankfully, due in large part to the efforts of Betty Kegel, the Whore of Quinnipiac is finally getting the respect she deserves.