Annie Besant (1847–1933) was a controversial figure in the latter half of the nineteenth century in England and India. Over the course of her public career, Besant was a mother, social reformer, freethinker, feminist, author, atheist, secularist, Neo-Malthusian, president of the Theosophical Society, establisher of colleges in India, martyr, president of the Indian National Congress, deified as a goddess, and finally demonized by many Indians.
Born into a middle-class family to a father who was a scientist and religious skeptic and a pious Anglican mother, Annie Besant lost her father at an early age, forcing her mother to arrange for her daughter to be taught by a wealthy widow so that there would be money to pay for her brother’s education at Harrow. Besant was not handicapped by her education by Amy Marry, a maiden of economic means. In her autobiography, she imagines herself becoming a religious leader while being educated in an Evangelical type of faith, but she regrets a lack of...
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