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Annie Besant (née Wood)

(1847-1933), Socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule

Sitter in 4 portraits
Besant controversially separated from her clergyman husband Frank Besant in 1873 as her beliefs became more secular and socially motivated. She met Charles Bradlaugh in 1875 who commissioned her to contribute to the National Reformer and together they founded the Freethought Publishing Company. In 1877 they were prosecuted for publishing Charles Knowlton's The Fruits of Philosophy on birth control. In 1888 she supported the Match Girls Strike, encouraging the first all women union to be formed. George Bernard Shaw introduced her to the Fabian Society and she became one of their leading speakers. Besant's conversion to Theosophy took her to India where she became involved in the independence movement, helping to launch the Home Rule League. In 1897 she founded the Central Hindu School in Varanasi.

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Annie Besant (née Wood), by Hayman Seleg Mendelssohn - NPG x35192

Annie Besant (née Wood)

by Hayman Seleg Mendelssohn
albumen cabinet card, mid 1880s
NPG x35192

Annie Besant (née Wood), by Hayman Seleg Mendelssohn - NPG x9201

Annie Besant (née Wood)

by Hayman Seleg Mendelssohn
albumen print, mid 1880s
NPG x9201

Annie Besant (née Wood), by Walter Stoneman - NPG x34168

Annie Besant (née Wood)

by Walter Stoneman
bromide print, circa 1890
NPG x34168

Annie Besant (née Wood), by Herbert Rose Barraud, published by  Eglington & Co - NPG Ax5543

Annie Besant (née Wood)

by Herbert Rose Barraud, published by Eglington & Co
carbon print, published 1891
NPG Ax5543

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