Besant, Annie Wood (1847-1933), was a British social reformer and a leader of a philosophical movement called theosophy. She also was a prominent figure in India's struggle for independence from Britain.
Besant lectured widely on a number of social issues, including planned parenthood and labour reform. In 1888, she helped organize a strike at a London match factory, one of the first successful strikes by unskilled workers. At that time, Besant was a member of the Fabian Society, an organization of British socialists.
In 1889, Besant joined the Theosophical Society, which combined the teachings of various religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, and studied the psychic powers of human beings. Besant served as president of the society from 1907 until her death in 1933.
In 1894, Besant moved to India, where she continued her work in theosophy and began supporting Indian educational reform. In 1898, she opened the Central Hindu College (now Banaras Hindu University) at Banaras (Varanasi), India. In the early 1900's, she became involved in the independence movement and, in 1916, founded the Indian Home Rule League. From 1918 to 1920, she served as president of the Indian National Congress, the leading independence group.
Annie Wood was born in London. She married Frank Besant, an English clergyman, in 1867.
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