Annie Besant

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 17, 2022, 6:51

The Indian freedom struggle saw the participation of many women figures who embraced public awareness as a tool to promote mass nationalism. Annie Besant was amongst the leading women who invoked a profound sense of patriotism through her Home Rule Movement.

Facts About Annie Besant

Here are 7 facts about Annie Besant's immense contribution to the freedom struggle of India:

  • Love for India

Annie Besant was amongst those Europeans who had a genuine love of Indian culture and respected the aspirations of people striving for complete Independence.

Taking inspiration from the Irish struggle against the crown, she was amongst the founding members of the Home Rule League in 1916 with the aim of self-governance.

  • Champion of Women's Rights

Women's participation played a critical role in the freedom struggle. Unlike many others, Annie Besant wanted the Indian women to modernise in the lines of cultural development.

She helped establish the Central Hindu College in Varanasi and Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board in contemporary Bombay for imparting modern education throughout the country.

  • An Outstanding Social Reformer

Long before her journey to India, Annie Besant was a full-fledged social activist playing an active part in organising the London Match strike in 1888, supporting working girls demanding adequate pay and better working conditions.

She also rallied to support the London Dock Strikes (1889). A generous supporter of birth-control measures, she was a pro-communist before joining the theosophical society.

  • Association with the Theosophical Society

Although founded in New York in 1875, the Theosophical Society established its headquarters in Adyar in 1882 near Madras. Known for its aim of spreading universal brotherhood through religious harmony, Annie Besant found her rightful place to promote the glorious traditions to inspire educated youth towards the freedom movement.

She became its president in 1901 and established the Theosophical Order of Service and Sons of India in 1908 to promote theosophical values across society.

  • A Prolific Public Speaker

Besides being a theosophist, Annie Besant had natural skills for public speaking, which made her an eminent author and orator for the National Secular Society (NSS).

She became a famous speaker for the Fabian Society and Marxist Social Democratic Federation before getting selected for the London School Board of Tower.

  • Role in the Indian Freedom Struggle

During the First World War, Annie Besant highlighted the plight of Indians suffering under colonial exploitation. Inspired by the Irish freedom struggle, she co-founded the All India Home Rule League with Lokmanya Tilak.

She published many editorial articles supporting Indian self-rule in the New India newspaper. The Indian National Congress made her their first female president between 1917 and 1918.

  • A Visionary for Gender Equality

Annie Besant saw gender equality as a progressive measure that would benefit society.

She was an active member of the Co-Freemasonry that accepted both men and women irrespective of their caste or creed. She believed in perfecting humanity, where men and women should work side-by-side.

A women's rights activist, freedom fighter, gifted speaker, and natural writer, Annie Besant was a versatile polymath, yet a gentle soul whose heart bled at the plight of the masses.

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FAQs on Annie Besant

Q.1. Where was Annie Besant born?

Born in Clapham, London, the United Kingdom, on 1st October 1847, Annie Besant was the daughter of William Wood and Emily Morris.

Q.2. What made Annie Besant such a rebellious personality?

Born to Irish ancestry, Annie took immense pride in the Irish freedom struggle. While studying at Birkbeck (University of London), she developed an intense interest in fighting against the plight of the working class.

Q.3. How was Annie Besant's relationship with India?

Annie Besant took a keen interest in exploring the cultural traditions of India. She developed a deep respect, leading to her crucial involvement in the Indian freedom struggle.

Q.4. When did Annie Besant die?

Annie Besant spent her last years in Adyar near Madras. There she breathed last on 20th September 1933. Besant Nagar in Tamil Nadu bears her name, honouring her dedication to the Indian people.