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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.

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