Table of Contents
Early Life and her contributions and struggles
Annie wood was born on 1 October 1847 in Clapham, London to an Irish family. Her father died when she was five and then she was married at an early age of twenty to a clergyman, Rev. Frank Besant.
Around in 1872, her desire to meet logic and faith together led her to disbelieve in Christian traditions which eventually disturbed her social life with her husband and her young son and led her path to her college, London University, where she studied science and graduated in 1879. In her life, she has overcome sexist obstacles and many other problems due to her curious nature and to bring a positive reform in society.
Annie Besant once said, “No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism.”
Her inquisitively in knowing the truth and logic led her to join the National Secular Society in 1874 which preached ‘free thought’, she also became a member of British Socialist Organization, Fabian Society and, Social Democratic Federation which was an established socialist political party by H. M. Hyndman.
She had a significant role in establishing trade unions in London, and bringing a change in unfair wage rates, knowledge of birth control, women and unskilled labourers’ rights. She also worked with George Lansbury, Sydney Webbs, Ramsay Mac Donald, George Bernard Shaw and several other prominent socialists of that time.
She joined the theosophical society on 21 may 1889 and significantly contributed to the theosophy and wrote many books on the subject. One of her famous works is on clairvoyant investigations on chemical elements named Occult Chemistry co-authored by Charles W. Leadbeater (Charles was the president of Theosophical society until Annie Besant took the pledge in 1907).
Annie Besant was a brilliant orator as well as an inspiring author. She has not only written different types of literature like Bhagavad Gita (translated as the lord’s song, 1895), Dharma (1898) etc. but she has also given lectures around the world about social reforms and theosophy.
She has written about Indian society and their struggles in many of her books – The Religious Problem in India (1901) and The Future of Indian Politics (1922).
She made her contribution to women’s rights and reforms in her books – The Political Status of Women (1874), Autobiographical Sketches (1908), and many others. In which she talks about the struggles of women in Indian politics and their contribution to the movement.
She studied deeply about different religions and their practices and critically analyzed the concept of Atheism in her books – Christianity: Its Evidences, Its Origin, Its Morality, Its History (1876), My Path to Atheism (1878), The Atheistic Platform: 12 Lectures One by Besant (1884), Esoteric Christianity (1905), The Religious Problem in India Lectures on Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Theosophy (1909), The Life and Teaching of Muhammad (1932) and many others.
Annie Besant fought for the rights of women and the oppression they were facing in the 19th century and early 20th century. Among her famous articles, ‘White Slavery in London’ was a disclosure about the dreadful conditions and extremely low wage rates given to the match girls working particularly at Bryant and, May factory in London.
Due to her article, the British government came to know about the inhuman conditions and oppression of women working in match factories and the intersectionality in the oppression of inferior races treated as slaves.
The outrage seeing the women’s position in the society justifies her anger in her writings “For centuries the leaders of Christian thought spoke of women as a necessary evil, and the greatest saints of the Church are those who despise women the most.”
Annie Besant’s contribution to Indian freedom
On 16th November 1893, she came to India to attend a conference on theosophical society in madras and later settled there. She has significantly worked for women and men in India.
Her role in Indian freedom started in 1913 and she particularly was interested in the Indian freedom project because she thought in her few left days she’ll gain the wisdom to become the light for India.
Newspapers by Annie Besant
She started a weekly newspaper in January 1914, Commonweal for her political work. She then purchased an English language daily newspaper Madras Standard and renamed it as ‘New India’ newspaper which later became a voice for her efforts in the Indian freedom struggle. She also started the Young Men’s Indian Association in the same year which trained Indian men in public welfare mechanics.
Besant’s contribution in INC
Besant in 1917 formed Women’s Indian Association to help women liberate from the socio-economic and political oppression which was prevalent in those times. In a session of Indian National Congress (INC, 32nd session) at Calcutta in 1917, Besant was declared as the first women president of INC. Her role in Indian the nationalist movement was not just the establishment of Indian Home Rule League in 1916, but also she brought together the two separated part of Indian National Congress (separated in 1907) as All India home rule league.
She always fought within and with the means of law and because she trusted the institution of law and justice, she with five others, in Lahore, stood against the campaign of Satyagrah launched by Gandhiji in 1920. Because of her step within the law, she had a massive decrease in her popularity but still, she continued her fight for Indian freedom.
In the 1920s she visited the United States and adopted a son named Jiddu Krishnamurti. She believed that her son was the new messiah and incarnation of Buddha but later in 1929 her son denied her claim. After falling ill in 1931 Annie Besant died on 20 September 1933 in India. She was cremated in Adyar, Chennai, Karnataka, India and the cremation is called as the garden of remembrance.