Annie Besant (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: After her early work promoting radical reform in England, Besant became leader of the Theosophical Society and was active in the nationalist movement in India.
Annie Wood Besant was born on October 1, 1847, in London, England, the second of three children of William and Emily Morris Wood. Despite her English birth, Besant had a strong sense of Irish heritage, because her mother was Irish and her father half Irish. William Wood, although trained as a physician, engaged in commerce in London. He died when Besant was five, a loss the trauma of which was compounded by the death several months later of her baby brother.
When Besant was eight, her impoverished widowed mother moved the family to Harrow so that her ten-year-old son Henry could more cheaply attend that prestigious public school. Shortly after the move, Miss Ellen Marryat, youngest sister of the novelist Frederick Marryat, offered to take Annie into her home in Devon to educate her. Although heartsick to be separated from her adored mother for the eight years she spent with Miss Marryat, Besant received excellent training, especially in literary skills, which enabled her to produce throughout her life a prodigious volume of writings for her many causes. During these adolescent years, she was intensely religious. Reading stories of early Christian martyrs, she longed to follow in their steps. She fasted regularly, tortured...
(The entire section is 2159 words.)
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