Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Who was Annie Besant?

Annie Besant was an English woman who lived between 1847 and 1933. She was a political and feminist revolutionary who was committed to social betterment, particularly in England and India where the rights of women and children were almost non-existent.

     Annie led the first successful women's strike in history--the strike of the London match-girls who were being poisoned by the chemicals in the factories and who were the most underpaid group of women at that time. She also wrote and published a book on birth control in 1869 which caused such controversy that her husband brought her to court and took custody of her children; declaring that publishing such an "obscene" pamphlet made her an unfit mother. After losing her children she became a great advocate and speaker for women's causes, and her close friend, George Bernard Shaw called her "the greatest orator of the century."

     After many years as a secularist and socialist struggling for human rights, and on the London School Board, Annie became the target of public abuse again as she became a devoted supporter of Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy. Her deep desire for spiritual growth and learning led her to become the president of the Theosophical Society--a group who are seen today as "the old guard of the New Age" bringing many Eastern concepts, such as karma and reincarnation, into awareness.

     While Annie Besant was president of this spiritual organization she found and raised a young Indian boy, J. Krishnamurti, to become a great spiritual teacher. Although he later rejected his role as as a Theosophical Guru, he did grow up to be a great spiritual teacher, as was predicted.

     Annie lived both in India and England, and was an educator and promoter of India's "home rule" just before Gandhi, and in 1917 she became President of the Indian National Congress. She died in India in 1933.