Annie Besant

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Annie Besant
BirthplaceClapham, London, United Kingdom
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).


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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Because of the rarity of such documents as examples of 19th-century African American personal correspondence, Maillard has made no selection among the 78 letters in the private collection, the Annie Wood Webb Papers.
"We're so relieved," said Annie Wood, of Medford, Scroggins' sister who was in Eugene this week visiting another sister, Katie Casey.
Three years ago, childhood friends Margo Cristein and Annie Wood recognized a gap in Niles's culinary scene and opened The Vine.
Upon his return, there was a furore over what Sir Frank had done, but with the support of Alderman Annie Wood, the leader of the Conservatives on the Parks Committee, he defeated his own colleagues who had wanted to censure him.
He described the band's librarian, Annie Wood, as the unsung hero of the organization.
It was built as a home for newly-weds Annie Wood, Edgar's sister, and Herbert Sykes, the son of John Sykes, who owned Acre Mills, Lindley.
The first set to close will be Annie Wood in Ladywood, Briarscroft, Hodge Hill, Edwin Arrowsmith, Ladywood, Lyttleton House, Northfield, Wallace Lawler, Edgbaston and Woodside, Selly Oak.
His wife, Annie Wood,who is the artistic director of a theatre company in London, is similarly unfazed.
Given the theme of synesthesia, this is no surprise: Theosophy was just as happy to mix and match the senses (see Annie Wood Besant and C.
Northern Film and Media's training and industry development director Annie Wood said: "It is very important for as many people as possible to have the chance to attend this excellent event.
"Training and development are central to our aim, led at director level by Annie Wood, who made the submission to Skillset.
Author of Creative Negativity: Four Victorian Exemplars of the Female Quest, she argues that such Victorian questors as Julia Margaret Cameron, Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Annie Wood Besant, and Elizabeth Robins apply a set of strategies she denotes "creative negativity" to enable and disguise their journeys of self.