Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Besant from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

Annie Besant 1847–1933 née Wood Eng. theosophist


Summary Article: Besant, Annie from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English socialist and feminist activist, born in India. She was associated with the radical atheist Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891) and the socialist Fabian Society. In 1888 she highlighted the terrible conditions of the London match girls in an article entitled ‘White Slavery in London’, and led them in their subsequent successful strike. In 1889 she became a disciple of the Russian spiritualist and mystic Madame Blavatsky. Thereafter she went to India where she founded the Central Hindu College in 1898 and became president of the Theosophical Society in 1907, a post she held until her death. She also became involved in the Indian independence movement, established the Indian Home Rule League in 1916, and became the only British woman to serve as president of the Indian National Congress in 1917.

The sister-in-law of the English writer Walter Besant (1836–1901), she was separated from her clerical husband in 1873 because of her freethinking views. She and Bradlaugh published a treatise advocating birth control and were prosecuted; as a result she lost custody of her daughter.

Her Theosophy and the New Psychology was published in 1904.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article Besant, Annie
Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers

(1847–1933) United Kingdom/India A small woman of enormous energy, one of the first to take a stand in support of birth control in Britain,...

Full text Article Besant, Annie (1847 - 1933)
The Penguin Biographical Dictionary of Women

There is no birthright in the white skin that it shall say that wherever it goes, to any nation, amongst any people, there the...

Full text Article Besant [née Wood], Annie 1847 - 1933
The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English

English orator, journalist and author. Passionate and charismatic, Besant experienced a series of spiritual upheavals in a life...

See more from Credo