Portfolio > Utopia Remains

Memnonia Institute
Memnonia Institute
Ultrachrome print, text panel
20.75 x 28.5 inches
2017

Location: Greene County, near Yellow Springs, Ohio

Duration: 1856-1857

Affiliation: Spiritualism / Free Love Movement, influenced by Swedenborgianism, Fourierism

Size: 20 students

Dr. Thomas Low Nichols and his wife Mary Nichols attempted to open the Memnonia Institute in March of 1856 despite opposition from Antioch College president Horace Mann and the surrounding town of Yellow Springs. Dr. Nichols was well known for some speeches and personal essays advocating free love and likening marriage to a form of slavery. Public outcry calmed down by July of 1856. The Nicholses then were able to open their Institute, which was named after a singing statue near the Nile River. To pay for the educational component of their venture, the Nicholses established a water cure treatment center, which was popular among the wealthy and sick of the 1840s. Hydropathy was a health reform that began in Europe. It involved purifying the body and curing it through bathing in and exposure to water. The Nicholses saw the Institute as a “School of Life, Progress, and Harmony.” Students took vows of chastity and adhered to a strict diet and religious routine. At the core of their doctrines was a belief in Perfectionism. Memnonia would prepare the way for utopia.

Reason for Demise: During a séance, Mary Nichols had a vision/visit from a Jesuit priest, causing Mary and Dr. Thomas Nichols to convert to Catholicism. Memnonia closed on March 29, 1857, the day of the couple’s baptism.