When National Geographic First Showed a Woman’s Bare Breasts in its Magazine

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A Brief History

On November 1, 1896, a picture showing the unclad or bare breasts of a woman appeared in National Geographic magazine for the first time in the publication’s long history.

Digging Deeper

National Geographic is one of the world’s most respected and outright useful magazines.  Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society has expanded to have a magazine with a U.S. readership of 4,125,152 and international readership of 875,962 (as of December 2012) in addition to its own television network and even video games.  The scientific and historical work done by its members have brought about numerous breakthroughs in many disciplines while helping to educate the masses about the world and even the universe around us.

According to the Society’s official website, one of the magazine’s early milestones came when its publishers decided that from then on out, they would show native peoples as they were, including when photographed nude.  In the case of November 1896, that month’s issue included a photograph of a Zulu bride (topless) and groom from South Africa.  The message conveyed is that nudity is not necessarily “pornographic” in nature, but that it has a legitimate, academic place when studying world cultures.

Another website goes on to explain, the groundbreaking work of their November 1896 issue was just the beginning of their inclusion of tasteful photographs of nude men and women in their native environments, a tradition that has endured in the magazine when showing people from around the world for well over a century now.  Indeed, today it is not uncommon to find such images readily available for public consumption even on YouTube!

Historical Evidence

Given that the original magazine discussed above is over a hundred years old, it is not exactly easy to find an original of this particular issue.  You can, however, turn to the following book for a nice overview of the magazine’s long photographic history:[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B00D9T9GJK”]

The Society has also produced some fun, educational games for the whole family, such as the following:[AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B003ZFVD4Y, B0055NBQ9Q”]

The above is but a sample of the numerous fantastic books, games, and documentaries produced by the Society since its origins at the end of the nineteenth century!


About Author

Dr. Zar

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history at multiple universities in Ohio and has presented research papers in Europe and North America.

  • JLS

    Although I have never read an entire National Geographic magazine I have flipped through a few while waiting in line at the grocery store. The one that comes to mind is the most recent issue about all of The Great Empires through out history. It was neat because it was everything we are learning about in class.

  • JV

    Interesting Article, one of my high school teachers actually does photography for the National Geographic magazine.

  • haylay cripple

    National geographic is a respected magazine. They show the pictures to depict a culture. Unlike many articles today, they do not degrade those cultures but try to bring out the life of the culture. I agree with they way they handle their magazine and respect them. I do not however, respect those who exploit for the purpose of exploiting.