Annie Besant (née Wood; 1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933) was a British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer, orator, political party member, educationist, and philanthropist. Regarded as a champion of human freedom, she was an ardent supporter of both Irish and Indian self-rule. She was also a prolific author with over three hundred books and pamphlets to her credit.
As an educationist, her contributions included being one of the founders of the Banaras Hindu University.
It’s her 89th death anniversary this year.
At the age of 20, Annie, who was a woman of Irish descent, got married to Frank Besant, a clergyman, and the couple was blessed with two children. However, due to Annie’s unconventional religious opinions, the couple separated in 1873. This was the beginning of Annie’s immersion in social issues for nearly two decades. Between 1874 and 1893, Annie worked for women’s voting rights, family planning, trade unionism and Irish Home Rule.
Annie in India:
Annie visited India for the first time in 1983. She later settled here and became involved in the country’s struggle for independence from British imperial rule. She, along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, launched the All India Home Rule League in 1916. She was also one of the prominent members of the Indian National Congress. She presided over the 1917 Calcutta Session of the Congress. In June 1917, the British state arrested her, following which the Congress and the Muslim League threatened to protest if she were not released.
Annie transformed Indian nationalist politics during the years of World War 1. Annie, till the end of her life, campaigned for the independence of India from the British state.