Writers

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Annie Besant

1847-1933

Annie Besant (1847 – 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer, orator, educationist, and philanthropist. Annie Wood was born to Irish parents, William Wood and Ellen Morris, who left Dublin, Ireland for England in 1845 because of the famine. William Wood died of tuberculosis when Annie was 5 years old. Instead of taking charity, Ellen took over the running of a boy’s boarding house at the Harrow School. Because Ellen considered it unsuitable for Annie to live at the boarding house, the child was put into foster care in Dorset with Ellen Marryat until she was 16. Annie Besant became a prominent member of the 1880s revival of socialism, along with George Bernard Shaw, and it was Shaw who encouraged Besant to join the Fabian Society. She was active in a number of social reforms, including the London matchgirls strike of 1888—which she called “white slavery”—when she successfully challenged the match manufacturers to improve working conditions.

Besant was involved with Theosophy from the late 1880s and moved to Madras, India in 1893. There she became involved in the independence movement and in education, founding the Central Hindu College which later became the Central Hindu School. Besant also encouraged Madan Mohan Malaviya in establishing the Banaras Hindu University.