Theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer, speaker, politician, educationist Annie Besant is one of the notable entities in Indian social life.
Biography of Annie Besant
|Date of Birth||October 1,1847|
|Place of Birth||London|
|Father’s Name||William Burton Persse|
|Mother’s Name||Emily Roche Morris|
Early Life of Annie Besant
Annie Besant, an active political activist, freedom fighter, powerful feminist voice who spoke up for women’s rights, was born on October 1,1847, in a family of Irish origin in London. Her father’s name is William Burton Persse and mother’s name is Emily Roche Morris.
Annie Besant’s childhood was not as sweet as any other child. At the age of five, Besant faced a lots of challenges in her life due to her father’s demise. Her mother supported the family by running a boarding house for boys at Harrow School. Later she was unable to raise Annie due to lack of money, for which she was educated under the supervision of Ellen Marryat, a friend of her mother. Besant, who has a sense of responsibility towards society since childhood, also emphasized on becoming self-reliant.
Also Read: Biography of Nip Baruah
Personal Life and her Contribution to Society
Annie Besant was married to the 26 years old religious leader Frank Besant, younger brother of Walter Besant in 1867 at the age of 20. However, Annie Besant was legally divorced in 1873 due to religious differences soon after the birth of two children and returned to London. They were legally separated and Annie took her daughter with her. Subsequently, in 1874, she joined the National Secular Society, she was the leading member of the National Secular Society and South Place Ethical Society and under the leadership of Charles Bradlaugh, took up revolutionary programs at various times to develop free thought. It is to be noted that Besant jointly edited the weekly paper National Reformer along with Charles Bradlaugh. It is to be noted that through this paper, during the period of 1874-88, Besant tried to take to the general public various free thought issues such as trade unions, national education, women’s voting rights, birth control, etc.
It is to be noted that Besant actively participated in labor and various socialist movements. Fabian Society and Social Democratic Federation member Annie Besant took up various works for the workers through trade unions.
Importantly, Annie Besant was a supporter of Irish independence. She also raised various questions on religious issues in the society. Church of England was criticised by her. She began to write attacks on the churches and the way they use to control people’s lives. She attacked the status of the Church of England as a state-sponsored faith.
Besant, who advocated intellectual freedom, women’s rights, was also aware and conscious of the rights of workers. She supported several workers’ protests to keep the working conditions of the workers as well as the working environment healthy. In 1888, she supported the strike programme undertaken by workers at Bryant and May’s Match Factory in Bow, East London who were mainly young women and were very poorly paid. It is to be noted that the workers did not get the opportunity to work in a healthy environment in this factory. Phosphorus fumes emitted from the factory negatively affected the health of the employees. The working environment of the factory had improved significantly after the strike.
Annie Besant opposed the church interference in people’s lives. After meeting Helena Blavatsky in 1889, the religious movement based on Hindu concepts of karma and rebirth became interested in Theosophy. For which she joined the Theosophical Society and later took the lead of the Theosophical Society and played an important role in spreading the theosophic beliefs all over the world. Soon after becoming a member of the Theosophical Society, she went to India for the first time. In 1893, Annie Besant represented the Theosophical Society at the World Council of Religions held in Chicago World Fair.
From 1907 to 1933, Besant served as president of the Theosophical Society. She first came to India in 1893 as a member of the Theosophical Society. However, after visiting India for the first time, Besant later settled in India permanently. At the time of her arrival in India, Annie Besant was inspired by the ongoing freedom struggle against British rule, she gradually became an active participant in the Indian freedom struggle.
Formation of Home Rule League and Political Career
In 1902, Annie Besant commented that India was governed not for the benefit of Indians but for the benefit of the British. Annie Besant, who focused on creating a national awakening in Indian society, also fought against social evils such as removing caste divisions, child marriage etc. Annie Besant also accepted many sacrifices for the promotion of education in Indian society.
Importantly, Annie Besant founded the All India Home Rule League in 1916 along with Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, once again modelling demands for India on Irish nationalist practices. This was the first political party in India to regime change as its main goal and to demand complete independence of India to break free from the British. Under the leadership of Annie Besant, the Home Rule League tried to build branches in different parts of India and launch a people-oriented movement to increase its organisational strength.
It was because of these activities that Annie Besant was put under house arrest and interned at a hill station by the British government in 1917. However, during this time, The Congress and the Muslim League together threatened and demanded the release of Annie Besant. Beasant’s arrest had created a focus for protest. It is to be noted that one of the claimants for the release of Annie Besant from house arrest was Mahatma Gandhi.
In September 1917, Annie Besant was released from house arrest by the British government. In December of that year, she was elected president of the Indian National Congress for a period of one year. Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi spoke of Besant’s influence with admiration. Later, however, Besant had to withdraw from the Congress party due to some differences of opinion. Annie Besant continued to work for the Indians even though she lost her status.
It is to be noted that in 1914, Annie Besant formed the Young Men’s Indian Association. She also published two weekly papers, The CommonWeal and New India, for 15 years. She started the Madras Parliament in 1918, playing a key role in the establishment of Madanapalla College in present-day Andhra Pradesh. Started the work of Arts League in Adyar, played a key role in establishing a women’s college in Benares, playing a key role in establishing the Order of the bother of service. It is to be noted that Besant served as president of Women’s India Association in Adyar and from there the All India Women’s Conference in Pune in 1927 and the All Asian Women’s Conference in Lahore were held. In addition to these, Besant started Society for the Promotion of National Education (SPNE).
Social Life of Annie Besant
Annie Besant’s contribution to social life as an educationist is noteworthy. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Central Hindu College (CHC) at Banaras in 1898 for students to introduce modern education across India. The main aim of the Central Hindu College was to build new leadership for India. It is to be noted that this college was built based on the principles of theosophic principles. Along with religious education, the students of this college were also provided science-oriented education.
It may be recalled that in April 1911, Annie Besant became acquainted with Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya. Importantly, they decided to come together and work for the Hindu University in a common manner. It may be recalled that Besant and the staff of Central Hindu College agreed to the precondition of the Government of India that the Central Hindu College should be a part of the Hindu University. Subsequently, from October 1,1917, Banaras Hindu University started operations with The Central Hindu College as the first formative college. Annie Besant was awarded the Doctor of Letters award in 1921 for her contributions to the field of Indian education.
Annie Besant’s contribution to making the Scout movement a success in India is also noteworthy. She was instrumental in building the Scouts Association for Indian boys. It is to be noted that Baden Powell had given her the responsibility as Scout Commissioner. Baden Powell sent her the highest Silver Wolf Medal from London in 1932.
Annie Beasant’s Publications
Annie Besant published a number of books to spread her ideal thinking and introduce innovations in the society. They are-
- An Introduction to Yoga,
- Esoteric Christianity,
- The Ancient Wisdom: An outline of Theosophical Teaching,
- Thought Power: it’s control and culture,
- Annie Besant: An Autobiography,
- Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification,
- Death and After,
- The Case for India,
- My path to Atheism,
- Man and his bodies,
- The Seven Principles of Man,
- The basis of Morality,
- Christianity: Its Evidences,
- Its Origin, Its Morality,
- Its History,
- A Study in Consciousness – A Contribution to the Science of Psychology (1904),
- Sanatana Dharma ; An Elementary Textbook of Hindu Religion and Ethics,
- Riddle of Life etc.
Last Days of Annie Besant
Besant became ill in 1931 in India. Annie Besant dedicated a long time to the theosophical society and mankind and served the human race till 20 September 1933, at the age of 85, in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India. Her body was cremated. She was survived by her daughter, Mabel. After the death of Annie Besant Jiddu Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, Guido Ferrando, and Rosalind Rajagopal built the Happy Valley School in California, now which is renamed as Besant Hill School of Happy Valley in her honour.
1. When and where was Annie Besant born?
Ans: Annie Besant was born in Clapham Town, London, United Kingdom.
2. When did Annie Besant founded Home Rule League in India?
Ans: She founded Home Rule League in India in 1916.
3. Name some of the organizations founded by Annie Besant.
Ans: Some of the organizations founded by Annie Besant are: Indian Home Rule League, Banaras Hindu University, Scout Movement, Women’s India Association, All Asian Women’s Conference, Society for the Promotion of National Education (SPNE) etc.
4. Name some of the publications of Annie Besant.
Ans: Some of the publications of Annie Besant are – Thought-Forms, An Introduction to Yoga, Esoteric Christianity, The Ancient Wisdom: An outline of Theosophical Teaching, Thought Power: it’s control and culture, Annie Besant: An Autobiography, Occult Chemistry: Investigations by Clairvoyant Magnification, Karma, Death and After, The Case for India, My path to Atheism, Man and his bodies, etc.
5. When and where did Annie Besant died?
Ans: She died on 20 September 1933, at the age of 85, in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India.
Hi, I’m Dev Kirtonia, Founder & CEO of Dev Library. A website that provides all SCERT, NCERT 3 to 12, and BA, B.com, B.Sc, and Computer Science with Post Graduate Notes & Suggestions, Novel, eBooks, Biography, Quotes, Study Materials, and more.