Sarah Jennison

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Sarah Jennison in the early 1990s.

Sarah Jennison (born 1916) is a respected Freedemian community leader best known for the founding of Jennison Nudist University with husband Fredrick Jennison. She was a large part of the Freedemian nudism movement, often referred to as "the mother of the Freedemian public nudism movement" and a "global leader of nude education".

Early Years/Pre-JNU

Born Sarah Heinsman on May 2nd, 1916 to a Mary and Pete Heinsman, Sarah grew up in a nudity-embracing home in Laneston, Freedemia. Mary Heinsman was an artist who worked as a reporter for the Laneston Herald and Pete Heinsman was a well known artist, photographer, and educator who worked part time as a photographer for the Laneston Herald and ran an art studio and gallery out of their home. Sarah was the oldest of 4 children, with two younger brothers, Harold and Thomas, and one younger sister, Cara. Clothes were banned in the Heinsman house, and only very minimal amounts were worn outside the home. The Heinsman Gallery, which still exists today, became famous for the nude art, photographs, paintings, and portraits they made of scenes from around the city and country. The Heinsman gallery also was known for having clothing-optional and nude only open houses for visitors, where there would be food and the public would be invited to enjoy. Between the visitors and her own family, Sarah would become very used to being surrounded by nudists.

As Pete and Mary Heinsman were well known and respected for their nude art and nudie lifestyle, people in the community were generally okay with Sarah and her siblings being naked in public. Sarah would grow up wearing little to nothing at pretty much all times. Neighbors recalled Sarah running around in the yard naked as a toddler, then riding her bike down the road wearing nothing but a helmet to visit friends as a child, walking to school wearing just a bookbag as a preteen, and even working at the local corner store as a bagger as a teenager wearing nothing more than a name tag. While her siblings were nudists as well, Sarah was the one who took it he furthest.

School

Laneston's schools occasionally gave Sarah and her siblings some trouble at times, but at the time, there were no real strict dress code rules, and her parents, many of her teachers, and friends convinced the school to let her continue coming to school nude. However, when playing school sports (basketball and baseball), Sarah was required to wear loose mesh shorts, and team numbers would be painted on her back and stomach. (Occasionally during away games, the home school would force Sarah to play wearing at least a thin jersey.) According to the school's records, the only time outside of sports that Sarah wore clothes besides shoes or the occasional rain jacket was at her graduation, where she wore just the cap and gown with nothing underneath. Pictures of the graduation show her standing nude on stage proudly throwing the gown in the air instead of her cap.

College Years

Sarah Jennison shortly after graduating from Hayes University.

Sarah would be accepted to the prestigious Hayes University, where she would major in sociology.

Like with her primary education experience, at times there was opposition to Sarah's perpetual nudity from peers and teachers. One particular incident involved a teacher kicking her out of the classroom on the first day of classes and telling her she would not be allowed back in until "she put on some modest clothes and stopped making a mockery of this institution". Sarah would end up taking this to the chancellor of Hayes University, who would side with her, stating "It seems counterproductive to deny a promising student with no behavioral issues from getting an education she is paying for over her choice to not wear clothes". This decision was controversial, especially considering the school was in Quentinsburgh, a city that, at the time, was not as open to nudism as it is now. However, it didn't quite "make the news", and concerns and complaints slowly died down as teachers and students became used to Sarah's nudeness.

Sarah would graduate at age 23 with a doctorate degree, several years early.

Marriage to Frederick Jennison

Sarah Heinsman would get a job teaching Sociology at Vandover University. Shortly after moving, Sarah would marry a local schoolteacher, Frederick Jennison, at age 24. The two would go on to have two kids, a son that they named Felix, and a daughter they would name Felicia.

The Jennisons as a young couple, with son Felix.

Founding of Jennison Nudist University

Logo of Jennison Nudist University.

In 1946, a brother and sister named Harold and Harriet Zirchall who were both students at Laneston State University were suspended and fined for going to class nude in protest of the university's then-strict dress code. At the time Harriet was an 18 year old freshman and Harold was a 20 year old junior. The Jennisons quickly sided with the Zirchalls, and attempted to file a civil suit against the university, but they would settle out of court. Later that year, the Jennisons proposed a university where nudism would be respected and embraced. They envisioned a high quality university, filled with naturist culture in the arts, music, theater, literature, and other programs, but also providing some of the best education in other fields like the sciences. They originally went with the name Jennison Nudist Academy, but would eventually change the name to Jennison Nudist University to emphasize the focus on higher education. The Zirchalls would transfer to JNU and would become leaders on campus as well, first in SGA and later given positions on the JNU Board of Trustees. Both are still active with the university, and the student union has been renamed the Zirchall Student Union.

Picture of Harriet and Harold Zirchall, taken shortly after they were suspended from Laneston Lake University for going to class nude.

When first proposed, many thought that it sounded like a nudist resort with a small academy, and many fought against such a school being part of the public university system. However, as time went on, it was made more clear to the public that the primary function was to provide a quality education across a variety of majors, and opposition slowly lessened. There was a lot of push to make the university clothing optional instead of nude only, and some even wanted to just open it as a regular university without nudism at all. Some claimed it was a form of discrimination to open a major public university that was only open to those willing to spend each and every day on campus nude. It does seem that under the wording in Amendment 30 passed in 2015, that by today's standards, the campus would have been discriminating by requiring full nudity in almost all situations. However, with the Jennisons' infulence, standing, and support from much of the nudist community, the campus would controversially open in 1954 as a nude-only campus. The call for the university to become clothing optional wouldn't be answered until 1986.

Picture of Sarah and Frederick Jennison, taken around 1964 and restored for university use years later.

President Sean Bond was asked about his opinion on the opening of Jennison Nudist University at the 1953 State of the Nation address and press conference. He responded,

"Personally, I'm not crazy about the idea of a nudist university being part of the public university system. But the important part is the education. Education is integral. As Executive of Trenchent, I was a large part of opening several new universities in the state, most of them technical and research universities. I've always thought that universities with strong offerings in the STEM fields, like the Sciences and Engineering, were some of the most beneficial to our growing country in this modern age. It sounds more like JNU would be more of a liberal arts school. However, they have assured me of their dedication to STEM fields, and the way they value culture and the arts, such as music, theater, film, and visual art, could end up being even more beneficial. Like I said, it all comes down to the education, and while I may personally find the nudist part a bit unusual, if JNU will provide a quality education to the people of Reeds state as a service to better the community, then they have my approval. That sounds like exactly the type of school we want in our growing public university system."