On the 3d of the 3d month, 1655, Sarah Goldsmith … with her hair hanging down her, and without any other clothes upon her, excepting shoes on her feet … stood about half an hour, till the tumult grew so violent, that some bystanders … forced them into a shop, out of which the
multitude call’d to have them thrown …
A form of Quaker witnessing. Going naked for a sign was especially popular in colonial America during the 17th century as a form of pacifist dissent against persecutors of the Quaker faith. The witness would appear naked in public to symbolize the spiritual nakedness of society at large. The degree of nudity varied, ranging from nothing but skin to wearing basic sackcloth garments. In many communities this provoked considerable scandal, and Quakers were often sentenced to whipping or the stocks for the practice.
Going naked for a sign has a Biblical precedent, too, as Isaiah and Samuel both prophesied nude under divine inspiration. Quaker figurehead George Fox approved of the practice, though we have no record of him personally indulging in it.
Crawford, P. and Gowing, L. (2000) Women's Worlds in Seventeenth-Century England, A sourcebook.
Hamm, Thomas D. The Quakers in America