1 October 1847
Annie Besant was born
On 1 October 1847, Annie Besant was born in London.
Annie Besant Biography
In this edition of This Day in History, you can read about Annie Besant and her stellar contribution to the Indian freedom struggle for the IAS exam.
- Annie Besant was born Annie Wood in London to an Irish-origin family. Besant lost her father at the age of five which left the family poor. Her education was provided for by a friend of her mother.
- Besant was inculcated at a young age with a strong sense of duty to society. She had an independent streak. At the age of 20, she married a vicar Frank Besant. They had two children but later separated legally owing to political differences.
- Besant was an ardent supporter of Irish self-rule.
- She also started questioning religious beliefs. She even attacked the Church of England. She was a political and religious activist with feminist ideas and this caused her problems in society as well.
- She fought for the freedom of thought, secularism, women’s rights, birth control, workers’ rights and Fabian socialism. She was particularly against the church controlling people’s lives.
- She was a brilliant public speaker and also travelled widely.
- Besant converted to Theosophy after meeting Helena Blavatsky in 1889.
- She came to India for the first time in 1893 as part of the Theosophical Society.
- She founded the Theosophical Society – Adyar along with Henry Steel Olcott. Its headquarters is in Adyar, Chennai and the society is still functional.
- Annie Besant was the society’s president from 1907 to 1933.
- Besant played an important role in the independence movement of India.
- Besant set up the Central Hindu College (CHC) at Benares. She met Madan Mohan Malaviya who joined forces to found the Banaras Hindu University in 1916. The CHC became the university’s first constituent college.
- She joined the Indian National Congress (INC) and demanded government action towards self-rule.
- When the First World War broke out, she said, “England’s need is India’s opportunity.”
- Besant launched the All India Home Rule League in 1916 along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The League was the first Indian political party which advocated self-rule as its motto. And in contrast to the INC which met once a year, the League worked throughout the year.
- The league had local branches and conducted public speeches, meetings and demonstrations. Besant was arrested by the government in June 1917. This led to a significant ruckus in the political circles with both the INC and the Muslim League demanding her release. Even Mahatma Gandhi wrote to the government urging her release.
- Besant was finally released in September 1917 and was welcomed by the people all over the country. In December that year, she became the Congress President.
- In 1933, Annie Besant died aged 85 in Adyar and her body was cremated.
Also on This Day 1842: Birth of S. Subramania Iyer, freedom fighter and co-founder of the Home Rule Movement. 1904: Birth of A K Gopalan, communist leader from Kerala who was also the first Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. 1960: Independence of Cyprus and Nigeria from the United Kingdom. 1971: The world’s first CAT scan was performed at Atkinson Morley Hospital, London.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.