Annie Besant

Annie Besant Facts:

Born: on 1st of October in 1847 at Clapham, London, United Kingdom
Died: on 20th of September in 1933 at age of 85 in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India
Nationality: British
Also known as: Annie Wood
Famous for: Theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator.


Spouse: Clergyman Frank Besant

  • Arthur
  • Mabel

Mother: Emily Morris
Father: William Wood

Education: Birkbeck, University of London

Political offices
President of the Indian National Congress: 1917
Preceded by: Ambica Charan Mazumdar
Succeeded by: Madan Mohan Malaviya

Annie Besant
Annie Besant

Annie Besant Biography

Annie Besant was born on1st of October in 1847 to the Emily Morris and William Wood in London, U.K. and died on 20th of September in 1933 in Madras, India. She was a famous British socialist, rights activist of women, Theosophist, orator, writer as well as the supporter of the Irish and Indian self-rule.

She got married at her 19 with the Frank Besant but soon got separated from her husband over religious differences. She then became a famous writer and speaker for the National Secular Society (NSS), and a very close friend of Charles Bradlaugh. They were selected in the year of 1877 for publishing a book by famous birth control campaigner, the Charles Knowlton. Her friend, the Charles Bradlaugh was first elected as a Member of the Parliament for Northampton in the 1880. She became the leading speaker for the Fabian Society as well as the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). She was then selected to the London School Board for Tower.

She met with the Helena Blavatsky in the year of 1890 and got interest in the Theosophy. She then became a Society member and successful lecturer in the Theosophy. During her theosophical work she took a trip to India in 1898. In 1902 she was helped to establish the Central Hindu College. After few years she was able to establish various lodges in several parts of the British Empire. In the year of 1907 she became the President of the Theosophical Society. She got involved in Indian politics and soon she has joined the Indian National Congress.

Her early life

She was born into the middle class family in London. She lost her father when she was just 5 years old. Her mother was hard working in nature and running the boarding house for boys at the Harrow School for supporting her family. Her mother was unable to support her and persuaded her to her friend Ellen Marryat for caring her. She aged 20 got married to the 26 years old clergyman Frank Besant. She was getting a part time study at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution. She always fought for the reasons which she thought right. She was the mother of two children and she kept contacted to her both children. Besant was a brilliant public speaker, and there was a great demand of her.

She was the best friend of the leader of the society, Charles Bradlaugh and she worked together him on many issues as well as she got nominated as the Member of Parliament for Northampton. Both, she and her friend published a book by the Charles Knowlton (the American birth-control campaigner). In the meantime, Besant made a close relation to the Irish Home Rulers in order to help them in her newspaper columns in their crucial years.

Political activism

From the Annie Besant point of view the friendship, love and politics were intimately tangled. Besant has joined the Fabian Society and she has started to write for the Fabians. She had actively involved in the London match girls strike in the 1888. She set up a committee of woman for the strike purpose for better pay and conditions. In the 1884, she made close relation with a young socialist teacher, the Edward Aveling. Soon, she has joined the Marxists and then stood for the London School Board election. She was also concerned with the London Dock Strike in the 1889 and participated in many important meetings and demonstrations organized by the organization.


She was very creative writer and an influential orator. She was invited for review writing for the Pall Mall Gazette on The Secret Doctrine (a book by H.P. Blavatsky) in the year of 1889. Just after an interview by the author of the book in Paris, she gets converted to the Theosophy. She then broke her links to the Fabian Society and the Marxists in 1890. After the death of author of the book, Blavatsky in the 1891, she left as only one Theosophy’s leading figures and she symbolized it at the Chicago World Fair.

She went India first time as a Theosophical Society member and took part in the India’s freedom and progress. Besant Nagar is located in Chennai India near the Theosophical Society is named in her honor.

Annie Besant in Sydney

Along with the Lokmanya Tilak In the 1916, she has launched the Home Rule League. She became the President of the Indian National Congress in December for one year. She worked hard on the campaign for India’s independence and has created various letters and articles demanding the independence of India.

Annie Besant in 1922
Annie Besant in 1922

Later years

She was died in the year 1933 and was carried on by her daughter, Mabel. After her death, the Besant Hill School was made in her honour by her colleagues (Jiddu Krishnamurti, Guido Ferrando, Aldous Huxley, and Rosalind Rajagopal).


There are many descendants of the Besant. Daughter of one of Arthur Digby was the Sylvia Besant, get married to the Commander Clem Lewis in the year 1920s. Some of the last and youngest grand children of her family are James, David, Fiona, Richard and Andrew Castle.

Annie Besant as a Freedom Fighter

Annie Besant was a great and courageous lady who has been titled as a freedom fighter as she fought for many war to help people to get their real freedom. She was deeply involved in the Indian Independence movement and continued her campaign to make India an Independent country. She loved the Indian people culture, tradition and understand their beliefs as she was a writer and speaker. She made India her own country in 1893 and started awakening Indian people from deep sleep through her loud speech. Once, Mahatma Gandhi said about her that she awakened Indian people from their deep sleep.

When she became a president of the Theosophical Society in 1908, she started guiding Indian societies away from Buddhism to bring them towards Hinduism. She deeply involved herself as a problem solver of the India. She helped in running the Home Rule movement in India to promote the democracy in India. She was selected as the first woman president of the Indian National Congress in 1917. She has been involved in many social works in India like establishing educational institutions, Indian Independence Movement and many more.

She fought in India for the causes such as women’s rights, workers’ rights secularism, birth control campaign and Fabian socialism. She also wrote against the Churches and gave people a right way. For her great social works she was selected as the public speaker as she was a brilliant speaker. One of her close friend, Bradlaugh, was an atheist and republican whom with she had worked on many social problems. She involved in the London match girls strike in 1888 which was a battle of New Unionism by her another friend, Herbert Burrows.

Annie Besant as a First Woman President

An Irish origin woman, Annie Besant, became the first woman President of the Indian National Congress to head the Calcutta session of Indian National Congress in 1917. She was the great woman who had played her significant role towards the Indian independence movement to make the country an independent country. After her separation from her husband, she came to India through her Theosophy related religious movement for which she became a leader later.

She deeply involved in the Indian independence movement after coming to India in 1893 and decided to get settled here. She became successful in many of her campaign run for the social works in India. One day, she became a first woman president of the Indian National Congress and did what she understand right in favor of the Indian people.

Annie Besant as a President of Theosophical Society

She got converted to the theosophy and became a theosophist when she got herself more capable to fight for spiritual development. Finally, she got converted to the Theosophy in 1887 when she met to the founder of Theosophical Society, Madame Blavatsky, in 1875. She became a disciple of him and did everything what she was passionate about. The Theosophical Society was established for completing the purpose of “Universal Brotherhood of Humanity” to promote “Brotherhood among nations” all over the world.

She started writing notes and lecturing on the theosophy just after joining the Theosophical Society in 1889. One of her writings called “Why I became a Theosophist” is based on her history as a theosophist. She moved to India in 1893 in order to complete her social work when her Guru, Madame Blavatsky, passed away on 8th of May in 1891. During the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society in Adyar and Benares, she was nominated for the president of Theosophical Society after the death of the H.S. Olcott (president of the Society) in 1906. Finally she became the Theosophical Society’s president and continued until her death in 1933. During her presidency, she theosophized various other fields like social, religious, economic, political and etc fields. In order to complete her dream of theosophizing various fields, she had established the “Theosophical Order of Service and the Sons of India” in the year 1908.

She started promoting people in India for great interest in the Theosophical education. In the continuation as a theosophist, she became the general secretary of National Convention of India in 1923. She was paid a public tribute at London in 1924 for celebrating her presence of 50 years for public life as well as to focus her social works on men and movements to enhance the humanity among people. She was declared as a World Teacher after lecturing on the Theosophy in 1926. She also selected fourth time as a president of the Theosophical Society in 1928.

Annie Besant as a Social Reformer

Annie Besant was a famous social reformer who had acted as a social activist for both country, England and India. She proved herself as one of the best social activists through her great and continued social works even after being criticized regarding to women’s rights in India. She always fought for women’s rights favoring the traditional Hindu Customs as she had much respect for the old Hindu ideas.

During her life as a social activist, she wrote for the National Reformer (a newspaper of NSS). She lectured many times over the social themes as she was also an outstanding speaker. One of her friends at the National Secular Society, Charles Bradlaugh was a leader, a former soldier, atheist and a republican whom she lived and worked over many social issues. Once she was arrested with her friend for one of her social works, birth control. This scandal separated her from her children as her husband filed a complaint against her in the court that she was not able to look after children.

Annie Besant Achievements

  • She became a well-known speaker at National Secular Society (NSS), a member of Theosophical Society, a most famous lecturer and a writer.
  • She worked with various union actions, Bloody Sunday demonstration and London match girls strike in 1888.
  • She became a foremost speaker for Fabian Society as well as Marxist Social Democratic Federation.
  • She was selected for the Tower Hamlets at London School Board.
  • She helped in establishing the Central Hindu College at Varanasi in 1898.
  • She also helped in establishing the Hyderabad (Sind) National Collegiate Board, Mumbai, India in 1922.
  • She became the president of Theosophical Society in 1907, headquartered in Adyar, Madras (Chennai).
  • She joined the Indian National Congress to get involved in the Indian politics and became the president of Indian National Congress in 1917.
  • She helped in launching Home Rule League for promoting the Indian democracy after broke out of the World War I in 1914.

Annie Besant Quotes

“Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.”

“Liberty is a great celestial Goddess, strong, beneficent, and austere, and she can never descend upon a nation by the shouting of crowds, nor by arguments of unbridled passion, nor by the hatred of class against class.”

“No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism.”

“Every person, every race, every nation, has its own particular keynote which it brings to the general chord of life and of humanity.”

“Better remain silent, better not even think, if you are not prepared to act.”

“I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and strength, and have paid heavily for the weakness.”

“Every person, every race, every nation, has its own particular keynote which it brings to the general chord of life and of humanity.”

“An accurate knowledge of the past of a country is necessary for everyone who would understand its present, and who desires to judge of its future.”

“Islam believes in many prophets, and Al Quran is nothing but a confirmation of the old Scriptures.”

“It is not monogamy when there is one legal wife, and mistresses out of sight.”

“It is the duty of the followers of Islam to spread through the civilised world, a knowledge of what Islam means – its spirit and message.”

“A prophet is always much wider than his followers, much more liberal than those who label themselves with his name.”

“India is a country in which every great religion finds a home.”

“Evil is only imperfection, that which is not complete, which is becoming, but has not yet found its end.”

“My own life in India, since I came to it in 1893 to make it my home, has been devoted to one purpose, to give back to India her ancient freedom.”

“Never yet was a nation born that did not begin in the spirit, pass to the heart and the mind, and then take an outer form in the world of men.”

“Representative institutions are as much a part of the true Briton as his language and his literature.”

“The birth of science rang the death-knell of an arbitrary and constantly interposing Supreme Power.”

“The body is never more alive than when it is dead; but it is alive in its units, and dead in its totality; alive as a congeries, dead as an organism.”

“That is the true definition of sin; when knowing right you do the lower, ah, then you sin. Where there is no knowledge, sin is not present.”

“The destruction of India’s village system was the greatest of England’s blunders.”

“There can be no wise politics without thought beforehand.”

“There is much, of course, in the exclusive claims of Christianity which make it hostile to other faiths.”

“To me in my childhood, elves and fairies of all sorts were very real things, and my dolls were as really children as I was myself a child.”

“In morals, theosophy builds its teachings on the unity, seeing in each form the expression of a common life, and therefore the fact that what injures one injures all. To do evil i.e., to throw poison into the life-blood of humanity, is a crime against the unity.”

“Muhammadan law in its relation to women, is a pattern to European law. Look back to the history of Islam, and you will find that women have often taken leading places – on the throne, in the battle-field, in politics, in literature, poetry, etc.”

“A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas a myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows.”

“Let Indian history be set side by side with Europe history with what there is of the latter century by century and let us see whether India need blush at the comparison.”

“A people can prosper under a very bad government and suffer under a very good one, if in the first case the local administration is effective and in the second it is inefficient.”

“A common religion is not possible for India, but a recognition of a common basis for all religions, and the growth of a liberal, tolerant spirit in religious matters, are possible.”

“You should always take a religion at its best and not at its worst, from its highest teachings and not from the lowest practices of some of its adherents.”

“What is the essence of theosophy? It is the fact that man, being himself divine, can know the divinity whose life he shares. As an inevitable corollary to this supreme truth comes the fact of the brotherhood of man.”

“What is the constitution of the universe? The universe is the manifestation of the divine thought; the thought of God embodies itself in the thought-forms that we call worlds.”

“We learn much during our sleep, and the knowledge thus gained slowly filters into the physical brain, and is occasionally impressed upon it as a vivid and illuminative dream.”

Frequently Asked Questions on Annie Besant

Q.1 Is Annie Besant the first president of Indian National Congress?

Ans. Annie Besant was the first woman to lead the Indian National Congress as its president. She was in charge of the Indian National Congress meeting in Calcutta in 1917.

Q.2 Why did Annie Besant support India?

Ans. Annie Besant was interested in Theosophy, a religious movement that started in 1875 and was based on Hindu ideas of karma and rebirth. In 1893, she went to India to spread the ideas of the Theosophical Society.

Q.3 What is the relationship between Annie Besant and Krishnamurti?

Ans. Dr Annie Besant adopted Jiddu Krishnamurti and his brother when they were children.

Q.4 Who was the first female president of All India Congress?

Ans. The Indian National Congress elected Annie Besant as its first female president.

Q.5 Who become the first woman President of the Indian National Congress?

Ans. Annie Besant was the first woman President of the Indian National Congress.

Q.6 What Annie Besant said about Hinduism?

Ans. According to Annie Besant, Hinduism is the core of India. India couldn’t exist without Hinduism. Also without Hinduism, India would have no future.

Q.7 What was the struggle of Annie Besant?

Ans. Annie Besant was interested in politics and India’s fight for independence. Because she took part in the Home Rule movement, Besant was put under house arrest in 1917.

Q.8 Where did Annie Besant died?

Ans. Besant died at the age of 85 on September 20, 1933, in Adyar, Madras Presidency, British India.

Q.9 What is the slogan of Dr. Annie Besant?

Ans. The famous slogan of Dr. Annie Besant is – “Better remain silent, better not even think, if you are not prepared to act.”

Q.10 What are some important lines about Annie Besant?

Ans. Annie Besant was a socialist, theosophist, fighter for women’s rights and Home Rule, educator, and supporter of Indian nationalism. Besant played a very important part to give India its freedom.

Q.11 Which Hindu college was founded by Annie Besant?

Ans. Central Hindu College in Varanasi was established by Annie Besant in 1898.

Q.12 What newspaper did Annie Besant start?

Ans. Annie Besant put out two newspapers in India called New India and Commonweal to bring attention to the Indian freedom fight.

Q.13 Did Annie Besant have children?

Ans. Annie Besant had two children Arthur and Mabel.

Q.14 Which book is written by Annie Besant?

Ans. Some books written by Annie Besant are – How India wrought for freedom, The Ancient Wisdom, Thought-Forms, etc.

Q.15 How did Annie Besant change the world?

Ans. Annie Besant was a British woman who supported Indian independence. She founded the All-India Home Rule League and campaigned for Indian independence during World War I. The development of Indian nationalism and British policy toward India were both affected by her political efforts.

Q.16 What is the conclusion for Annie Besant?

Ans. Annie Besant stayed in the Theosophical Society until 1931, when she got sick. She died in Adyar, Madras Presidency, on September 20, 1933.

Q.17 What was the philosophy of Annie Besant?

Ans. She was a strong advocate for Irish and Indian independence. Annie Besant’s view was very anti-Christian, since she was an atheist.