Besant, Annie (1847–1933)

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Besant, Annie (1847–1933)

British journalist, social reformer, Theosophist, and political leader who played an active role in the British trade union and Indian nationalist movements. Name variations: Annie Wood; (pseudonym) Ajax. Pronunciation: BEZ-ant. Born Annie Wood on October 1, 1847, in London, England; died on September 20, 1933, in Madras, India; daughter of William Burton Persse (an insurance underwriter) and Emily (Morris) Wood; graduated from London University, B.Sc. 1880; married Frank Besant, on December 21, 1867; children: Arthur Digby (b. January 16, 1869) and Mabel Emily (b. August 28, 1870); (wards) Krishnamurti and Nityananda Naryaniah.

Lived with and was educated by Ellen Marryat (1855–63); published short stories in Family Herald (beginning in 1870); joined National Secular Society and began writing regular columns and articles under pseudonym Ajax for the National Reformer; convicted under obscenity laws for disseminating birth-control information (1877); entered London University; founded and edited Our Corner and Link; joined Fabian Society (1885); participated in Bloody Sunday riot and began to organize trade unions; elected to London School Board (1889); joined Theosophical Society and repudiated atheism and earlier stance on birth control (1890); assumed leadership of main Theosophical Society faction and moved to India (1893); established schools and lectured on need for social reform and Indian self-autonomy; founded and edited Commonweal and New India; elected president of Indian National Congress in 1917.

Publications:

On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth (1872); Auguste Comte: His Philosophy, His Religion and His Sociology (1875); The Gospel of Atheism (1877); Law of Population (1878); England, India and Afghanistan (1879); Autobiographical Sketches (1885); Why I Am a Socialist (1886); Modern Socialism (1886); Why I Do Not Believe in God (1887); My Path to Atheism (1889); Why I Became a Theosophist (1889); Reincarnation (1892); Seven Principles of Man (1892); An Autobiography (1893); Death and After (1893); Building of the Kosmos (1894); In the Outer Court (1895); Karma (1895); The Self and its Sheaths (1895); Path of Discipleship (1896); Man and his Bodies (1896); Four Great Religions (1897); The Ancient Wisdom (1897); Three Paths to Union with God (1897); Revolution of Life and Form (1898); Dharma (1899); The Story of the Great War (1899); Avâtares (1900); Ancient Ideals in Modern Life (1901); Esoteric Christianity (1901); Thought Power (1901); The Religious Problem in India (1902); Pedigree of Man (1903); A Study in Consciousness (1904); Theosophy and the New Psychology (1904); Hints on the Bhagavad Gita (1905); Wisdom of the Upanishats (1906); H.P. Blavatsky and the Masters of Wisdom (1907); Wake Up India (1913); Man: Whence, How and Whither (1913); How India Wrought for Freedom (1915); (co-authored with C.W. Leadbeater) Occult Chemistry (1919); (co-authored with Leadbeater) Thoughtforms (1919); The Future of Indian Politics (1922); The Coming of the World Teacher (1925); India, Bond or Free (1926); Indian Ideals (1930); India a Nation (1930).

Few women to emerge from Victorian Britain aroused as much hatred, outrage, and

public disapproval as Annie Besant. In a career spanning more than 60 years, she used her role as an influential journalist, political activist, and social reformer to challenge and reform existing attitudes about birth control, religion, the plight of industrial laborers and the growth of Indian nationalism. Her many controversial and contradictory campaigns, which alienated friend and foe alike, had a dramatic and lasting impact on British and Indian political and social development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Born in October 1847 into a middle-class Irish family living in London, Annie was the second of three children of William Burton Persse Wood and Emily Morris Wood . When Annie was five, her father, a sometime scholar and dilettante, died from an infection caught while attending the autopsy of a tuberculosis victim. Within a few months, Annie's younger brother Alfred also contracted a fatal illness and soon followed his father to the grave. Although William Wood had made a comfortable living as an insurance underwriter, he left no money behind to care for his grieving family. Faced with the prospect of poverty, Emily and her children left their comfortable home in the fashionable London suburb of St. John's Wood and went to live with relatives in nearby Clapham.

Two years later, Emily moved her family to Harrow where she opened a boarding house catering to pupils of the nearby elite public school. This not only allowed Emily to provide for her family, it also enabled her to buy a quality education for her remaining son Henry, so that he could fulfill his father's dying wish and enter the legal profession. Annie's education, on the other hand, was left to Ellen Marryat , a wealthy and philanthropic evangelical Christian, who taught a select group of underprivileged pupils at her home in Dorset. For the next eight years, Besant was to remain in Marryat's charge, returning home only for occasional brief holidays. While in Dorset, she received a very unorthodox education for a Victorian girl. Instead of learning to sew and keep house, Besant acquired the same academic education—with particular emphasis on religious instruction, writing ability, and foreign language skills—as her male peers within the Marryat household. This early grounding in religion and education sparked the beginning of a religious odyssey and search for wisdom that were to occupy her for the rest of her life.

By 1863, Besant had absorbed all that her teacher had to offer and was sent home to Harrow where she spent the next three years continuing her own education by reading widely. Her religious awakening also continued in this period and led her closer to Catholicism, which she had first encountered on the Continent with Ellen Marryat the previous year. During Easter of 1866, Besant began writing a history of the Holy Week as recounted in the Gospels. What began as an act of religious devotion soon ended in intense religious doubt as she uncovered numerous discrepancies in the stories of the Resurrection as recorded in the four Gospels.

In the midst of all this, Frank Besant, a young teacher and cleric, began courting Annie with her mother's encouragement. His proposal apparently caught the 18-year-old offguard and before she knew it she found herself engaged. Although thrilled by her daughter's engagement, Emily refused to allow a public announcement until the following year on the grounds that Annie was still too young. In the meantime, Besant was sent to Switzerland in the summer of 1866 for a last brief wanderjahr before her marriage. While in Switzerland, she met and befriended William Roberts, a radical lawyer involved in the growing British trade-union movement. Under his tutelage, she began learning about the horrors of factory work and the plight of the urban poor.

Besant returned to England in the fall and began preparing for her impending nuptials. Her marriage, which finally took place in late December of 1867, was a disaster from the beginning. Like most Victorian women, she had led a sheltered life and had little knowledge of sex. As a result, her wedding night came as a horrible shock from which she recovered only with great difficulty. Her growing unhappiness was compounded when Frank secured a teaching post at Cheltenham College the following month. Bored and depressed by her new surroundings, Besant retreated into books and the start of what was soon to become a prolific writing career.

Her first literary attempt was a hagiography of little-known saints. While the manuscript made the rounds of various publishers before eventually disappearing, Besant also began work on a series of short stories which were accepted for publication in the Family Herald. Her delight at receiving payment for her work was soon crushed when Frank, exercising a husband's rights over his wife's property, appropriated the check. Although she persevered and soon added religious pamphlets to her repertoire, Besant's budding literary career was almost snuffed out by her husband's disapproval and the birth of her two children, Arthur Digby and Mabel, in quick succession.

As she was recovering from Mabel's birth in August of 1870, Besant learned that a dishonest solicitor had bilked her mother of her savings. The following spring, Annie Besant collapsed after nursing both of her children through bouts of whooping cough. When the 24-year-old emerged from her sickbed, she was a changed woman and began railing against the injustice of a God who allowed the weak and innocent to suffer. Although her new attitude further weakened her already tenuous marriage, she accompanied Frank when he gave up his teaching post and accepted a position as vicar of a small village in Lincolnshire. Soon after her arrival in the village of Sibsey, Besant realized that she had made a dreadful mistake. Finding that the charity work traditionally expected of a vicar's wife did little to alleviate her sense of isolation, she quickly slipped back into depression. When Frank, already overbearing and highly critical, turned physically abusive in the summer of 1872, Besant fled to her mother.

While in London, she met and befriended Reverend Charles Voysey, a leading Dissenter and renegade cleric. Her relationship with Voysey soon led Besant into contact with other Dissenters and Freethinkers, including the influential publisher Charles Scott. Encouraged to continue her exploration of her own religious doubts, Besant cast off the trappings of Christianity and embraced Theism. When she returned to Sibsey later that fall in an attempt at reconciliation with Frank, Besant found that her new religious beliefs and subsequent publication of a theist pamphlet, entitled On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth, had embarrassed her husband and raised an impenetrable barrier between them.

This unhappy situation was finally resolved the following spring when Frank issued an ultimatum after Besant took the children to visit her mother and brother in Southsea. Finding his demand for her immediate return and total conformity to all Church doctrine and practices more than she could bear, Besant initiated proceedings to formally end their marriage. To her dismay, she discovered that divorce was a very complicated matter for Victorian women. Not only were women denied the right to act on their own behalf in legal matters, they had to prove that they were the victims of adultery, cruelty, or desertion in order to qualify for a divorce. Although she found herself unable to prove that Frank was guilty of cruelty, Besant was able to get him to agree to a legal separation in late October of 1873; she was to retain custody of Mabel and was to receive a quarter of Frank's income as child support. Her visitation rights for Digby, who was to remain in his father's care, were limited to one month per year.

Although finally free of her unhappy marriage, Annie Besant faced new and equally daunting problems. Victorian society was not kind to divorced women and Besant, who had compounded matters by espousing non-traditional religious beliefs, found herself a social outcast with very little income on which to support herself and her daughter. To stave off the indignity of poverty, Besant was eventually forced to take a temporary position as a governess. Although she had finally made enough money by the end of 1874 to rent and furnish her own home, her happiness at this prospect was tempered by news that her mother had become fatally ill. In the months leading up to Emily's death, Besant found refuge in the British Museum reading room where she conducted research for a new series of religious pamphlets which her friend Scott had commissioned.

While Besant was grateful for the work, she found that her writing was insufficient to occupy either her time or intellect. In an effort to unearth kindred spirits and alleviate her own loneliness, she joined the Liberal Social Union and quickly developed a taste for lecturing after speaking out at several meetings. By the time she made her formal debut on the lucrative lecture circuit in late August 1874, Besant's ongoing religious doubts had transformed her into an atheist and led her to join the National Secular Society. The success of her first public lecture brought her to the attention of the Society's president and founder, Charles Bradlaugh, who subsequently offered her a steady job as a writer and assistant editor of the National Reformer. From the beginning, her weekly articles (which mocked opponents of Freethought, advocated social reform, women's suffrage and called for an end to imperialism around the world) appeared under the pseudonym Ajax to spare Scott, for whom she also still wrote, a potentially embarrassing connection to the often controversial National Reformer and its parent organization.

Besant's efforts at anonymity did not, however, last. At her second appearance, which dealt with the plight of women and their demand for suffrage, her identity as Ajax was revealed. Although this fact was suppressed in the many reviews of her lecture, Scott was forced to publish Besant's next piece anonymously lest he risk permanent damage to his business prospects. Their working relationship received another serious jolt in the summer of 1878 when a member of the audience interrupted one of Besant's lectures to accuse her of supporting promiscuity and free love. While nothing could have been further from the truth, Besant's decision not to defend herself publicly damaged her reputation and caused her estranged husband to attempt to regain custody of Mabel. His efforts were only foiled through Bradlaugh's timely intervention and repeated threats of legal action.

In the meantime, Besant rose rapidly within the National Secular Society due to her eloquence and the vehemence of her attacks on the society's opponents. A scant year after joining the organization, she had become vice president and had emerged as one of its more vocal and influential members. In the spring of 1876, Besant moved into a house in St. John's Wood and began circulating the so-called "monster petition," demanding an end to parliamentary grants to the royal family. After presenting the petition to Parliament, which chose to ignore it, Besant began writing more and more articles in the National Reformer calling for widespread political and social reform.

Her growing public radicalism led Besant into deep trouble. When Charles Watts, a Bristol book merchant, was indicted under Victorian Britain's obscenity laws for publishing Charles Knowlton's Fruits of Philosophy, which both described and promoted various methods of birth control, Besant reviewed the book and insisted that it was defensible on medical grounds. Desperate to avoid a jail sentence, Watts pled guilty, much to Besant's disgust. Convinced that Watts' plea was a victory for censorship, in early 1877 Besant and Bradlaugh decided to challenge the basis of the Obscene Publications Act. In order to provoke a test case, they established the Freethought Publishing Company and brought out a new version of Fruits of Philosophy. Within weeks, both had been arrested and began defending themselves in a highly publicized trial which aroused enormous public interest due to both the subject matter and Besant's own spirited testimony. Despite an eloquent defense, both defendants were found guilty and sentenced to a fine and six months imprisonment. Freed on appeal, Besant began to publicly advocate the use of birth control. Her ideas were presented in the Law of Population which was first serialized in the National Reformer and then issued separately as an enormously popular pamphlet.

By August of 1877, Besant found herself in enormous demand on the lecture circuit due to the trial's publicity. As her influence grew, along with the size of her audience, she began to speak more often about peace, anti-imperialism, and the need for social justice. In January of the following year, the Court of Errors, after finally hearing their appeal, dismissed the case against both Besant and Bradlaugh on a technicality. Unfortunately, her good fortune ended here. Frank, incensed at his estranged wife's actions and association of his family name with atheism and birth control, formally sued to regain custody of Mabel. When Besant's brother declined to appear in court on her behalf, as he had done during her earlier legal battles with Frank, Bradlaugh offered to take over. His decision to use the custody hearings as a new forum in which to advocate Freethought ideology proved to be disastrous and caused Besant to lose her case. Subsequent appeals for Mabel's return and a new bid for a divorce also failed and led to increasingly restrictive visitation rights which Besant eventually decided to forego entirely in the hope that her children would seek her out on their own when they legally came of age.

Infuriated by these setbacks, she vowed to overcome the system and earn a law degree so that she might be better prepared for any future legal battles. To this end, she matriculated at London University in 1879, a scant year after the institution opened its doors to women. In order to pass the entrance exam required of all new students, Besant had turned to a fellow Freethinker, Edward Bibbins Aveling, to tutor her in science. As a result of these sessions, Besant abandoned law in favor of biology and earned a first-class degree the following year despite massive resistance and prejudice from within the male-dominated university community. Determined to pass on what she had learned, Besant began teaching courses of her own in the National Secular Society's Hall of Science.

Society is to be reformed by a slow process of evolution, not by revolution and bloodshed.

—Annie Besant

Although busy with teaching duties and her own studies, Besant still found time to lecture and write in support of social and political re-form. At an open meeting in early February of 1880, she formally called for an end to primogeniture, advocated state seizure of land not in use for cultivation, and demanded immediate re-form of the tax code in an effort to improve the plight of urban and rural laborers. The popularity of this platform led Besant to create the Land League, with help from both Aveling and Bradlaugh, and paved the way for the latter's first successful campaign for election to Parliament. As an atheist, however, many felt that Bradlaugh's oath of allegiance to the Crown, something required of all MPs, was meaningless. When his opponents seized upon the issue and used it to deprive him of his seat, Besant began campaigning tirelessly on Bradlaugh's behalf. These efforts were to occupy the bulk of her time for the next four years.

With Bradlaugh diverted by the effort to take up his parliamentary duties, the National Secular Society began to fall into disarray. When Aveling joined socialists, a group which Bradlaugh had long opposed, and began a long-term romantic attachment with Eleanor Marx-Aveling , he was expelled from the Society in disgrace. Deprived of her two mentors and colleagues, Besant began evolving her own political philosophy. Her ideas first appeared in 1884 in a series of Autobiographical Sketches which she published in her own newly founded journal entitled Our Corner. The next phase of Besant's political evolution came when she met and befriended George Bernard Shaw after he began submitting pieces for publication in Our Corner. Shaw soon led Besant to embrace socialism and supported her June 1884 application for membership in the newly founded Fabian Society, a group of intellectuals who called for the gradual reform of British society by freeing land and capital from individual ownership.

By March of 1885, Besant had been elected to the Fabian's executive committee and began leading many of the Society's subsequent reform campaigns. This growing public commitment to socialism finally estranged her from Bradlaugh and led to her 1887 resignation as co-editor of the National Reformer. Freed of her editing responsibilities, she turned her full attention to the plight of the working class. When a series of increasingly militant demonstrations by unemployed workers in the fall of 1888 resulted in mass arrests, Besant led the Fabians in arranging bail, organizing jail visits, and speaking out in support of the arrested workers. In the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday riots, which subsequently erupted in mid-November after the government tried to ban a planned mass meeting in Trafalgar Square, Besant's efforts on behalf of workers increased. Along with the journalist W.T. Stead, she created the Law and Liberty League and founded a new journal, Link, both of which were dedicated to reform efforts aimed at improving the lot of Britain's working classes.

Besant's continued exposés on factory conditions in Our Corner, Link, and the National Reformer triggered a strike later that year by women working in the match industry. After helping the women to unionize and win concessions from their employers, Besant was elected secretary of the union and was sent as one of its delegates to the International Trades Union Congress. Her successful intervention on behalf of the matchworkers led to appeals for her help from other groups, causing Besant to soon become a potent and influential force in the labor movement. Her increasing militancy and political activism did not end there. In late October of 1889, she was elected to the London School Board as the representative for Tower Hamlets. Within a few weeks, Besant had acquired a seat on all of the board's influential committees and began using her position to force firms receiving school-board contracts to abide by union rules and pay workers according to union mandated-wage scales. Flushed with success, she allowed both Link and Our Corner to fold and began devoting more and more of her time to the board's educational reform efforts.

In the midst of this frenzy of activity, Besant, to the consternation and disappointment of her reformist friends and colleagues, suddenly abandoned atheism and returned to religion. As she herself was later to describe, her atheism had been based on an unsuccessful search for a rationale behind the suffering which was plainly evident in the world around her. After reading Helena Blavatsky 's The Secret Doctrine in early 1890, Besant felt that she had finally found her answers and eagerly joined Madame Blavatsky's mystical Theosophical Society. Despite having read reports that the Society's occult activities in India were fraudulent, Besant found its combination of mysticism, reincarnation, karma, and spiritual evolution very hard to resist. Encouraged by her new mentor to retract her ideas about birth control and family planning, both of which interfered with the process of reincarnation that was central to the Theosophical movement, Besant began buying up all the existing copies of her very successful The Law of Population and had the printing plates destroyed. Not content with this, within months she had taken over as editor of Lucifer, the society's journal, and began using its pages to complete her ideological reversal and advocate celibacy.

Shocked and horrified by these events, both Shaw and Bradlaugh sprung into action and tried to talk Besant out of her growing commitment to Theosophy. Her response was to resign from the Fabian Society and gradually disengage herself from many other commitments. When Bradlaugh became ill and had to step down as head of National Secular Society in February of 1890, Besant fully expected to take his place. To her dismay the Society's rank and file, disturbed by her socialism and Theosophical attachments, chose another candidate instead. Upset and humiliated, she resigned two weeks later and began devoting all her time to lecturing, traveling, and writing on behalf of the Theosophical movement.

As she was preparing to leave for the United States on a lecture tour the following year, Besant was surprised and delighted by the sudden return of her children, who having come of age, were anxious to reestablish contact and judge their mother for themselves. When the news of their actions finally reached Frank, he became infuriated and permanently severed all ties with both children. With her home life still in flux, Besant finally left for a highly successful lecture tour of the U.S. in early April of 1891. She returned home the following month to the news that Blavatsky had died and named Besant as her successor and leader of the Indo-European faction of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky's partner and co-founder, Colonel Henry Olcott, began encouraging Besant to immigrate to India so that she could help manage the Society's headquarters in Madras. As a result, she declined to seek reelection to the school board the following year and began concentrating instead on fund-raising efforts to help support the movement and her impending emigration.

Besant finally left for India in the fall of 1893. On arrival, she embarked on a lecture tour and began learning Sanskrit to enhance her Theosophical studies. Within a year, however, the Theosophical Society was enveloped in a bitter and widely reported feud which erupted after the leader of the American faction, W.Q. Judge, attempted to take control of the entire movement. The failure of his attempted coup eventually prompted Judge and his followers to split off and form their own rival splinter group. Although Olcott remained nominally in charge as president, Judge's defection effectively transferred de facto control over the parent organization to Besant.

In the aftermath of the movement's leadership crisis, Besant concentrated her efforts on lecturing, writing books supporting Theosophy, advocating Indian Home Rule and promoting education. Drawing on her experience as a member of the London School Board, she founded Hindu Central College as a school for boys in 1898. Other schools followed and eventually led her back to the center of controversy. Shortly after her arrival in India, Besant met Charles Leadbeater, a notorious spiritualist and Theosophist of dubious repute. Although Blavatsky had never liked or trusted him, Besant began rapidly promoting Leadbeater within the organization and collaborated with him on several books linking science and mysticism. When Leadbeater, who had joined in her educational efforts, was subsequently brought up on charges that he was a pederast and had been teaching students to masturbate, Besant outraged parents and her fellow Theosophists by defending him.

Despite the damage to her reputation caused by continued association with Leadbeater, she was formally elected president of the Theosophical Society after Olcott's death in February of 1907. Now 60, Besant celebrated with a barnstorming tour of Australia that did much to revive the flagging organization's reputation. This was not, however, to last very long. In 1909, Leadbeater found two Indian boys and presented one of them, Krishnamurti Naryaniah, to Besant as the movement's Avatar, or future world teacher, who was to lead humanity in its evolution to a higher spiritual stage. After obtaining legal guardianship over the two boys in the spring of 1911, Besant took them to England to be educated. On her return to India later that fall, she resumed her lecturing career and, in addition to touching upon her now familiar themes of Indian home rule, the need for education and the pernicious effects of child marriage, Besant also began telling her audiences about the coming of the world teacher. Hearing that his son was being deified, Krishnamurti's father sued to regain custody of his children. When Besant lost the case in an Indian court, she appealed to the Privy Council in London and was eventually granted permanent custody in 1914.

As she fought her custody battles in the courts, Besant's preoccupation with mysticism temporarily declined, leaving her free to concentrate on Indian politics instead. In 1913, her anti-imperialism, already more than three decades old, took a new turn when she joined the Indian National Congress and began accusing England of looting Indian wealth, stifling its industry, and promoting racial discrimination in the name of imperial rule. In an effort to spread her message, Besant launched a new journal, Commonweal, and set off on yet another lecture tour across the Indian sub-continent. When the First World War broke out in 1914, she used the pages of the New India, a defunct newspaper which she had acquired the previous year, to call for Indian participation in the war effort. Her support for the war, however, came with a price. Unlike some Indian nationalists, Besant refused to cease her agitation for Indian home rule during the war years. These efforts, which eventually led to the 1916 creation of the Home Rule League, simultaneously made Besant a villain to the British and a hero to Indians. Her activities were eventually considered so dangerous and subversive by the British government that it ordered her interned for three months in 1917. On her release, Besant's popularity in India rose to new heights and led to her election as president of the Indian National Congress.

Within a few months, however, Besant's newly created image among Indian nationalists was tarnished by her growing public opposition to Mohandas Gandhi's passive resistance campaign. Although she professed great personal admiration for Gandhi and his efforts, Besant remained convinced that passive resistance would only end in bloodshed. In the aftermath of the Armritsar massacre of 1919, which saw British troops open fire on trapped Indian protestors, Besant felt that her opposition had been entirely justified and was surprised to find that the color of her skin had suddenly discredited her in the newly radicalized movement. Although she lost her bid for reelection to the presidency of the Indian National Congress in 1920, Besant refused to retreat from politics and concentrated instead on efforts to get Indian nationalists to draft and present their own constitution to the British Parliament for ratification. When Parliament rejected the proposed constitution in 1925, Besant finally retired from politics and resumed her emphasis on Theosophy.

Although well into her late 70s, Besant resumed a punishing schedule on behalf of the Theosophical Society. Back in India in time for her 80th birthday, she was horrified to find that Krishnamurti, her adopted son and the Society's supposed messiah, had begun to question his commitment to Theosophy and had gradually begun to withdraw from the movement. When Krishnamurti formally and publicly repudiated Theosophy in 1929, Besant threw herself into a desperate attempt at damage control, a task which occupied her until her death on September 20, 1933.

While the complex and contradictory nature of her life and work defy easy description, there can be no doubt as to Annie Besant's ability to influence, shock, and reform the world around her. As a journalist, social reformer, union organizer, and political activist, she broke free of the many restrictions placed on Victorian women and left an indelible imprint on British and Indian society that remains unmatched to this day.

sources:

Dinnage, Rosemary. Annie Besant. Hammondsworth: Penguin Books, 1986.

Longford, Elizabeth. Eminent Victorian Women. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

Nethercot, Arthur. The First Five Lives of Annie Besant. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.

——. The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant. London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1963.

Taylor, Anne. Annie Besant. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

West, Geoffrey. Annie Besant. NY: Viking Press, 1928.

suggested reading:

Chandrasekhar, S. "A Dirty, Filthy Book." Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981.

Chaudhuri, Nupur, and Margaret Strobel, eds. Western Women and Imperialism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Kumar, Raj. Annie Besant's Rise to Power in Indian Politics 1914–1917. New Delhi: Concept Publishing, 1981.

Lewis, Jane. Women in England 1870–1950: Sexual Divisions and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Manvell, Roger. The Trial of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. NY: Horizon Press, 1976.

collections:

Correspondence, papers and manuscripts located in Theosophical Society Archives, Adyar, Madras, India and London, England; the National Secular Society Archives, London, England; British Library, London, England; Churchill College, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England; the Fabian Society Papers in Nuffield College, Oxford University, Oxford, England; the privately owned Bradlaugh Bonner papers; and the transcript of Besant v. Wood, Public Record Office, London, England.

Kenneth J. Orosz , Ph.D. Candidate in European History at Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York

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