Annie Besant

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Annie Besant
Birthday
BirthplaceClapham, London, United Kingdom
Died
Known for Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator

Besant, Annie

(bĕz`ant), 1847–1933, English social reformer and theosophist, b. Annie Wood. She steadily grew away from Christianity and in 1873 separated from her husband, a Protestant clergyman. In 1879 the courts deprived her of her children because of her atheism and alleged unconventionality. As a member of the National Secular Society she preached free thought and, as a member of the Fabian society, socialism. With Charles BradlaughBradlaugh, Charles
, 1833–91, British social reformer, a secularist. Editor of the free-thinking weekly National Reformer from 1860 and later associated with Annie Besant, he was an early advocate of woman's suffrage, birth control, free speech, national education,
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 she edited the National Reformer and with him reprinted an old pamphlet on birth control, The Fruits of Philosophy, for which they were tried (1877) on a charge of immorality and acquitted. In 1889 she embraced theosophytheosophy
[Gr.,=divine wisdom], philosophical system having affinities with mysticism and claiming insight into the nature of God and the world through direct knowledge, philosophical speculation, or some physical process.
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, becoming a disciple of Mme Blavatsky and, later, her biographer. She pursued her mission to India, where she soon became involved in nationalist politics. She founded the Central Hindu College at Benares (Varanasi) in 1898 and in 1916 established the Indian Home Rule League and became its president. She was president of the Indian National Congress in 1917, but later split with Gandhi. She traveled (1926–27) in England and the United States with her protégé Jiddu KrishnamurtiKrishnamurti, Jiddu
, 1895–1986, Indian religious figure whose message centered on the need for maximum self-awareness. In 1909, Annie Besant met him and proclaimed him an incarnation of Maitreya, the messianic Buddha.
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, whom she announced as the new Messiah. President of the Theosophical Society from 1907, she wrote an enormous number of books and pamphlets on theosophy. Her works include her autobiography (1893), Four Great Religions (1897), The Ancient Wisdom (1897), and a translation of the Bhagavad Gita (1905).

Bibliography

See biographies by A. H. Nethercot (1960, 1963), R. Dinnage (1987), and C. Wessinger (1988).

Besant, Annie

 

Born Oct. 1, 1847, in London; died Sept. 20, 1933, in Madras. Public figure in India.

Until 1893, Besant was engaged in political and publicistic activity in England. In 1893 she moved to India, where she was head of a theosophical society. During World War I she came forward as one of the initiators and leaders of the Home Rule movement—that is, the movement to attain Indian self-government within the framework of the British Empire by constitutional methods. In this movement Besant collaborated closely with the party of the Indian National Congress. To a considerable degree, the unification of the extremists and the moderates in the Indian National Congress in 1916 was due to Besant’s efforts. In the 1920’s, Besant left the Indian nationalist movement.

L. I. IUREVICH