Annie Besant's Biography
Annie Besant was born Annie Woods in Clapham, south London on 1 October 1847.
Her father, an insurance underwriter, died when she was five, and her mother persuaded Ellen Marryat to bring up Annie.
At 16, Annie returned to her mother.
In 1867, at just 20, Annie married Frank Besant, an Anglican clergyman. They had two children, but their widely differing views on matters such as religion and the role of women, led to their legal separation in 1873.
In 1876, she was elected vice-president of the National Secular Society, of which Charles Bradlaugh was president.
They campaigned on many matters including the rights of trade unions and women.
Bradlaugh and Besant were tried for obscenity for republishing, in 1877, The Fruits of Philosophy, or An Essay on the Population Question, written by Charles Knowlton.
It advocated birth control for the poor.
Although found guilty they were acquitted on appeal.
In 1887, she led a demonstration against unemployment in Trafalgar Square. The following year, she helped organise a strike of the female workers at the Bryant & May match factory in London.
It led to an improvement in their working conditions.
In the same year, 1888, Annie Besant was elected to the London School Board.
She continued to campaign on worker rights and became active in The Fabian Society alongside the likes of George Bernard Shaw.
However, Besant became increasingly interested in Theosophy and the work of Madame Blavatsky.
It was an esoteric religious movement and led to her settling in India and becoming involved in the Indian nationalist movement.
During this time, she bought and destroyed the available copies of her earlier pamphlet on birth control, The Law of Population, and wrote a new work, Theosophy and the Law of Population, which advocated abstinence.
She started to promote her belief that her adopted son Jiddu Krishnamurti was the incarnation of Buddha. He later rejected this notion.
Annie Besant died in India on 20 September 1933, by which time she had written hundreds of books.
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