79 Facts About Annie Besant


Annie Besant was a British socialist, theosophist, freemason, women's rights and Home Rule activist, educationist, and campaigner for Indian nationalism.


Annie Besant was a prolific author with over three hundred books and pamphlets to her credit.


For fifteen years, Besant was a public proponent in England of atheism and scientific materialism.


Annie Besant's goal was to provide employment, better living conditions, and proper education for the poor.


Annie Besant then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society, as well as a writer, and a close friend of Charles Bradlaugh.


Annie Besant was a leading speaker for both the Fabian Society and the Marxist Social Democratic Federation.


Annie Besant was elected to the London School Board for Tower Hamlets, topping the poll, even though few women were qualified to vote at that time.

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In 1890 Annie Besant met Helena Blavatsky, and over the next few years her interest in theosophy grew, whilst her interest in secular matters waned.


Annie Besant became a member of the Theosophical Society and a prominent lecturer on the subject.


Annie Besant became involved in politics in India, joining the Indian National Congress.


Annie Besant Wood was born on 1 October 1847 in London into an upper-middle-class family.


Annie Besant was the daughter of William Burton Persse Wood and Emily Roche Morris.


Annie Besant's father was an Englishman who lived in Dublin and attained a medical degree, having attended Trinity College Dublin.


Annie Besant's mother was an Irish Catholic, from a family of more modest means.


Annie Besant would go on to make much of her Irish ancestry and supported the cause of Irish self-rule throughout her adult life.


Annie Besant's father died when she was five years old, leaving the family almost penniless.


Annie Besant's mother supported the family by running a boarding house for boys at Harrow School.


However, she was unable to support Annie Besant and persuaded her friend Ellen Marryat to care for her.


Annie Besant was given a strong sense of duty to society and an equally strong sense of what independent women could achieve.


Annie Besant was an Anglican but would later abandon the faith.


Annie Besant was an evangelical Anglican who seemed to share many of her concerns.


Annie Besant moved to Sibsey with her husband, and within a few years they had two children, Arthur and Mabel; however, the marriage was a disaster.


Annie Besant began to support farmworkers who were fighting to unionise and to win better conditions.


The tension came to a head when Annie Besant refused to attend Communion.


Annie Besant turned to leading churchmen for advice, going to see Edward Bouverie Pusey, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement within the Church of England.

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Annie Besant returned to Frank to make a last unsuccessful effort to repair the marriage.


Annie Besant fought for the causes she thought were right, starting with freedom of thought, women's rights, secularism, birth control, Fabian socialism and workers' rights.


Annie Besant was a leading member of the National Secular Society alongside Charles Bradlaugh and the South Place Ethical Society.


Annie Besant began to write attacks on the churches and the way they controlled people's lives.


Annie Besant was a brilliant speaker and was in great demand.


For many years Annie Besant was a friend of the National Secular Society's leader, Charles Bradlaugh.


Bradlaugh, a former soldier, had long been separated from his wife; Annie Besant lived with him and his daughters, and they worked together on many projects.


Annie Besant was an atheist and a republican; he was trying to get elected as Member of Parliament for Northampton.


Annie Besant was instrumental in founding the Malthusian League during the trial, which would go on to advocate for the abolition of penalties for the promotion of contraception.


Annie Besant's husband was able to persuade the court that she was unfit to look after them, and they were handed over to him permanently.


Meanwhile, Annie Besant built close contacts with the Irish Home Rulers and supported them in her newspaper columns during what are considered crucial years, when the Irish nationalists were forming an alliance with Liberals and Radicals.


Annie Besant met the leaders of the Irish home rule movement.


Annie Besant spoke and wrote in favour of Davitt and his Land League many times over the coming decades.


Annie Besant was searching for a real political outlet, where her skills as a speaker, writer, and organiser could do some real good.


Annie Besant was impressed by his work and grew very close to him too in the early 1880s.


Many were hurt, one man died, and hundreds were arrested; Annie Besant offered herself for arrest, an offer disregarded by the police.


Annie Besant threw herself into organising legal aid for the jailed workers and support for their families.


Annie Besant was drawn into this battle of the "New Unionism" by a young socialist, Herbert Burrows.


Some match workers asked for help from Burrows and Annie Besant in setting up a union.


Annie Besant met the women and set up a committee, which led the women into a strike for better pay and conditions, an action that won public support.

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Annie Besant led demonstrations by "match-girls", who were cheered in the streets, and prominent churchmen wrote in their support.


Annie Besant then helped them to set up a proper union and a social centre.


Annie Besant's campaign was the first time anyone had successfully challenged the match manufacturers on a major issue and was seen as a landmark victory of the early years of British Socialism.


In 1884, Annie Besant had developed a very close friendship with Edward Aveling, a young socialist teacher who lived in her house for a time.


Annie Besant eventually went to live with Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx.


Annie Besant remained a member for a number of years and became one of its best speakers.


Annie Besant was still a member of the Fabian Society; neither she nor anyone else seemed to think the two movements incompatible at the time.


Annie Besant drove about with a red ribbon in her hair, speaking at meetings.


Annie Besant was involved in the London dock strike of 1889, in which the dockers, who were employed by the day, were led by Ben Tillett in a struggle for the "Dockers' Tanner".


Annie Besant helped Tillett draw up the union's rules and played an important part in the meetings and agitation which built up the organisation.


Annie Besant spoke for the dockers at public meetings and on street corners.


Annie Besant had found the economic side of life lacking a spiritual dimension, so she searched for a belief based on "Love".


Annie Besant found this in Theosophy, so she joined the Theosophical Society, a move that distanced her from Bradlaugh and other former activist co-workers.


When Blavatsky died in 1891, Annie Besant was left as one of the leading figures in theosophy and in 1893 she represented it at the Chicago World Fair.


The original society, then led by Henry Steel Olcott and Annie Besant, is today based in Chennai, India, and is known as the Theosophical Society Adyar.


Annie Besant met fellow theosophist Charles Webster Leadbeater in London in April 1894.


Leadbeater claimed clairvoyance and reputedly helped Annie Besant become clairvoyant herself in the following year.


The next year Annie Besant became president of the society and in 1908, with her express support, Leadbeater was readmitted to the society.


Leadbeater went on to face accusations of improper relations with boys, but none of the accusations were ever proven and Annie Besant never deserted him.


Annie Besant set up a new school for boys, the Central Hindu College at Banaras which was formed on underlying theosophical principles, and which counted many prominent theosophists in its staff and faculty.

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Annie Besant soon became the boys' legal guardian with the consent of their father, who was very poor and could not take care of them.


Annie Besant dissolved the Order of the Star in the East, an organisation founded to assist the World Teacher in his mission, and eventually left the Theosophical Society and theosophy at large.


Annie Besant spent the rest of his life travelling the world as an unaffiliated speaker, becoming in the process widely known as an original, independent thinker on philosophical, psychological, and spiritual subjects.


In 1916, Annie Besant launched the All India Home Rule League along with Lokmanya Tilak, modelling demands for India on Irish nationalist practices.


In June 1917, Annie Besant was arrested and interned at a hill station, where she defiantly flew a red and green flag.


The Congress and the Muslim League together threatened to launch protests if she were not set free; Annie Besant's arrest had created a focus for protest.


Annie Besant was freed in September 1917, welcomed by crowds all over India, and in December she took over as president of the Indian National Congress for a year.


Annie Besant was a lawyer who had returned from leading Asians in a peaceful struggle against racism in South Africa.


Annie Besant produced a torrent of letters and articles demanding independence.


Annie Besant tried as a person, theosophist, and president of the Theosophical Society, to accommodate Krishnamurti's views into her life, without success; she vowed to personally follow him in his new direction although she apparently had trouble understanding both his motives and his new message.


Annie Besant died on 20 September 1933, at age 85, in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India.


Annie Besant wrote The Besant Pedigree and was director of the Theosophical bookstore in London.


One of Arthur Digby's daughters was Sylvia Annie Besant, who married Commander Clem Lewis in the 1920s.


Besides being a prolific writer, Annie Besant was a "practised stump orator" who gave sixty-six public lectures in one year.