Annie Besant

Standard Name: Besant, Annie
Birth Name: Annie Wood
Married Name: Annie Besant
Pseudonym: Ajax
Used Form: the wife of a beneficed clergyman
AB is known primarily for two streams of non-fiction writing, one concerning birth control and the other the Theosophist movement. However, this omits much of the remarkable output whose topics ranged from women's rights and religion to politics and science; only a small selection from over one hundred pamphlets, lectures, and essays can be discussed here.
Shattock, Joanne. The Oxford Guide to British Women Writers. Oxford University Press, 1993.
She often pursued various topics simultaneously. For example, during 1878 and 1879 while she was trying to regain custody of her children, she was also organising her writings on the French Revolution; translating a book from French; keeping up with her weekly journalism; producing pamphlets on atheism, republicanism, India and Ireland; sitting on committees; and, of course, continuing to lecture.
Dinnage, Rosemary. Annie Besant. Penguin, 1986.
As well as such often controversial writings, AB published short fiction.
Photograph of Annie Besant looking directly at the camera with her right hand over her chest. She has a serious expression and is wearing a white high frill-collared dress with possibly a shawl over it. She has two rings on her visible right hand. She has blonde hair and it is in an updo.
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Connections Sort descending Author name Excerpt
Cultural formation Charlotte Despard
She converted to Catholicism less than a year after her husband's death, which made her a co-religionist of those she now set out to help.
Linklater, Andro. An Unhusbanded Life. Hutchinson, 1980.
Around 1909, after attending a series of lectures by...
Cultural formation Rose Allatini
RA (who was probably brought up in the Jewish faith) became known as an Occultist. Higher Occultism was connected to the Theosophical Movement, which was inspired by two Indian High Initiates known as Master Koot Hoomi
Cultural formation Mary Gawthorpe
MG begins her autobiography with her local identity: I was Yorkshire born. My forebears, grandparents maternal and paternal, were all born in Yorkshire, in Leeds so far as I know.
Gawthorpe, Mary. Up Hill to Holloway. Traversity Press, 1962.
Born English therefore, she...
Family and Intimate relationships Anna Wickham
After AW 's marriage, Alice Harper returned to London briefly and opened a physiognomy parlour in Regent Street. She also became involved in Annie Besant 's Theosophist movement.
Hepburn, James, Anna Wickham, and James Hepburn. “Anna Wickham: A Memoir”. The Writings of Anna Wickham, Free Woman and Poet, edited by Reginald Donald Smith, Virago Press, 1984, pp. 1 - 48.
Wickham, Anna, James Hepburn, and James Hepburn. “Fragment of an Autobiography: Prelude to a Spring Clean”. The Writings of Anna Wickham Free Woman and Poet, edited by Reginald Donald Smith, Virago Press, 1984, pp. 51 - 157.
A portrait of Alice...
Family and Intimate relationships Ella Wheeler Wilcox
He had promised her a message from the next world, and his death precipitated her into an anxious search. She travelled to California and read avidly in spiritualist books by Sir Oliver Lodge , Annie Besant
Family and Intimate relationships Katharine Bruce Glasier
KBG was devastated by her husband's death, but later she began to experience visions of his continuing presence (as she did of her son's presence after he too died).
Kelly, Gary, and Edd Applegate, editors. Dictionary of Literary Biography 190. Gale Research, 1998.
Glasier, Katharine Bruce. The Glen Book. London.
John Bruce Glasier had...
Family and Intimate relationships Sir Walter Besant
Annie Besant became his sister-in-law through her marriage to his brother Frank in 1867.
Family and Intimate relationships Muriel Box
MB 's mother was christened Caroline Beatrice (Doney) but known as Bertie.
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray, Brian Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, editors. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
Box, Muriel. Odd Woman Out. Leslie Frewin, 1974.
14, 16
She was a woman of passion, of deep-rooted prejudices, capable of violent outbursts of temper when her will was crossed. She...
Family and Intimate relationships Florence Marryat
FM 's aunt Ellen Marryat was a significant influence on the education of Annie Woods (later Annie Besant ).
Friends, Associates Emma Frances Brooke
EFB 's involvement with the socialist and feminist movements of the day brought her into close contact with several notable activists and revolutionaries. Through the Fabian Society , she interacted with Beatrice and Sidney Webb
Friends, Associates Catharine Amy Dawson Scott
Dawson counted Violet Hunt among her closest friends in London; she also socialized with Annie Besant , Flora Annie Steel , James McNeill Whistler , and Netta Syrett .
Watts, Marjorie, and Frances King. Mrs. Sappho. Duckworth, 1987.
Friends, Associates William Morris
WM 's associates included George Bernard Shaw , Annie Besant , Emery Walker , Vernon Lee , as well as Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst . His friendship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti ended in 1875, as...
Friends, Associates George Bernard Shaw
He was an important figure in the lives and careers of almost innumerable women writers: a good friend of Annie Besant , Sylvia Pankhurst , Elizabeth Robins , and Christopher St John , a romantic...
Friends, Associates Margaret Harkness
Probably through sisters Kate Potter Courtney (whose house Harkness often stayed at) and Beatrice Potter (later Webb) , MH began to associate with the intellectuals who frequented the Reading Room of the British Museum ...
Friends, Associates E. Nesbit
Through her political interests she got to know George Bernard Shaw (with whom she had a brief affair but a succeeding steady friendship), Sidney Webb , Sydney Olivier , Annie Besant , Eleanor Marx ,...


Joseph Henry Parker took over his uncle's Oxford bookselling and publishing business; as J. H. Parker it soon became the foremost publisher of the Oxford or Tractarian Movement.
2 May 1857
A grand dome designed by Panizzi was opened in what had been the central courtyard of the British Museum .
25 August 1857
The Obscene Publications Act allowed for the censorship of pornographic materials entering Britain.
18 September 1867
Fenians staged an attack in Manchester on a police van to gain the release of two Fenian prisoners who were arrested the week before; a policeman was killed. Later five men were tried for murder...
April 1873
The Custody of Infants Act made provision for women separating from their husbands to be awarded custody of children up to the age of sixteen.
February 1878
The acquittal of Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant in their famous obscenity trial meant that distribution of birth control information was no longer illegal.
9 July 1885
Karl Pearson (then a solemn, rationalist young barrister) held the first meeting of a society designed to talk about sex in a spirit of high seriousness and sense of intellectual adventure:
Walkowitz, Judith R. “Science, Feminism and Romance: The Men and Women’s Club 1885-1889”. History Workshop Journal, No. 1, pp. 36 -59.
the Men and Women's Club
September 1886
A famous meeting of the Fabian Society resolved that it was desirable for socialists to form a politial party; this was the first germ of the Labour Party .
November 1887
The Law and Liberty League was founded by newspaper publisher W.T. Stead and socialist/secularist Annie Besant .
13 November 1887
Police broke up a meeting of the Social Democratic Federation (militant radicals, many of them Irish) held in Trafalgar Square, London; the day became known as Bloody Sunday.
4 February 1888
Annie Besant and W.T. Stead edited the first weekly issue of The Link: A Journal for the Servants of Man / Law and Liberty League, published in London.
July 1888
One thousand four hundred women workers at the Bryant and May match factory in London went on strike, in protest against poor working conditions and low wages; this became known as the Match Girls (or...
12 August 1889
The London Dock Strike began; it aroused widespread sympathy for striking dockers.
Sixty-seven year-old phrenologist Henry Loader was prosecuted for selling two birth control manuals, The Wife's Handbook and Fruits of Philosophy.
28 March 1912
The Conciliation Bill (on suffrage) was defeated in a House of Commons vote, after passing its second reading (the previous year) with a huge majority.