Annie Besant: a Busy Woman!

Annie Besant has been a busy person. She is a British writer, but she is also a woman’s rights advocate and reformer, an orator, and politically active socialist. She was born Annie Wood in London in 1847. Her father died and her mother could not take care of her, so she lived with a friend of her mother. Eventually she married a Reverend, Frank Besant, but she was unhappy and began to question her religious views. They had two children together.  They could not get along and were legally separated. She rejected Christianity and joined the Secular Society. She started her writing career writing articles about Women’s Rights for the National Reformer, a radical newspaper.

She advocated birth control and contraception alongside her close associate Charles Bradlaugh (editor of  The National Reformer), and it didn’t make her life any easier. They almost went to prison for the publishing of The Fruit of Philosophy, written by Charles Knowlton, which supported birth control. Despite opposition from the Church and authorities, Besant and Brandlaugh stood their ground, stating in The National Reformer, “We intend to publish nothing we do not think we can morally defend. All we publish we will defend” (Besant 116) After their court case, She wrote another book advocating these ideas, The Laws of Population, to replace Knowlton’s book on the shelves. Publishing this lead to her husband being able to persuade courts to let him to take custody of their daughter.

She is also a public speaker, for which she is acclaimed. She became involved in socialist and union activities, and after being motivated by Clementina Black, helped Match-making women to form the Matchgirls Union, and instigated the Bryant and May Matchgirls strike, which was successful. The Bryant and May system has ended its system of fining its workers and its use to yellow phosphorus, due to the reporting of Besant and her cohorts.

She has become involved in a religious movement known as Theosophy, a movement based on Hindu ideas, and moved to India where she lives to this day. She still remains involved in political action and women’s rights, contributing to British newspapers from afar.

Works Cited

Simkin, John. “Annie Besant.” Spartacus Educational. Accessed 3 December 2016.

Besant, Annie. Autobiographical Sketches. Freethought Publishing, 1885.


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