nnie Besant (1847-1933), an estranged Anglican priest's wife, who had rejected Christianity and become a free thinker, and eventually a theosophist, was one of the most remarkable British women of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A gifted public speaker and prolific writer, she campaigned for free thought, birth control, improved education, and women’s rights. Continuously criticising orthodox religion, conventional marriage and the political, economic and social discrimination of women, she represented attitudes incompatible with the dominant Victorian norms. She outlived the Victorian era by three decades devoting herself to theosophy and India's independence.
Childhood and adolescence
She was born Ann Wood, in Clapham, London on 1 October, 1847, to parents with Irish roots: William Persse Wood and Emily Roche Morris. Her father had a medical degree from Trinity College, Dublin, but never practised regularly as a doctor. Employed as an insurance underwriter in London, he died when Annie was five years old. Without means, her widowed mother began to earn a living looking after boarders at Harrow School. However, unable to take proper care of her precocious daughter, in 1856, she asked a wealthy friend, Miss Ellen Marryat, the spinster sister of Frederick Marryat, a noted author of sea stories, to take control of her upbringing and education.
Miss Marryat was an Evangelical Calvinist, who “had a perfect genius for teaching and took in it the greatest delight” (Besant, Autobiographical Sketches 20). Annie's upbringing had a strongly Evangelical bent. She was allowed to read not only the Bible, but also John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and John Milton's Paradise Lost. Having a great facility of learning by heart, she often recited for her own amusement lines from the great Christian epic. In 1861, Miss Marryat took Annie on an educational tour to Holland, France and Germany. After her return to England she perfected her French and German. As a result of such upbringing, Annie became a self-made intellectual. She was keenly absorbed in a spiritual search that led her from evangelical Christianity as a teenager to high-church mysticism (Wainwright in Olson and Shadle 134). At age 16, Annie completed her education under Miss Marryat and returned to live with her mother and brother.
In 1866, aged nineteen, Annie was introduced to a young, stiff-necked Cambridge don, the Rev. Frank Besant, an Anglican clergyman from Lincolnshire, the younger brother of the writer Walter Besant, whom she married in the next year on the advice of her mother. They had two children, a son Digby born in 1869 and a daughter Mabel born in 1870. After marriage Annie became a devout adherent of the Oxford Movement. She hoped that her true vocation in life would be to serve the Church along with her husband, but gradually she developed doubts about Christianity although she still cherished her Evangelical devotion to truth and duty which she acquired from Miss Marryat.
After the wedding she became increasingly disillusioned with her husband who treated her harshly and did not support her intellectual development. She had a spirit of independence and could not put up with his expectations to be merely a submissive wife and a mother to his children. In her Autobiography, she wrote:
We were an ill-matched pair, my husband and I, from the very outset; he, with very high ideas of a husband's authority and a wife's submission holding strongly to the “master-in-my-own-house theory,” thinking much of the details of home arrangements, precise, methodical, easily angered and with difficulty appeased; I, accustomed to freedom, indifferent to home details, impulsive, hot-tempered, and proud as Lucifer. 
Soon she realised that she had married a man whom she did not even pretend to love. In order to relieve the stress of a mismatched marriage, Annie Besant began to write short stories. Her first story “Sunshine and Shade. A Tale Based on Fact,” was published in the Family Herald in 1868. However, when she received her fee, she realised that, according to law, the money she had earned belonged solely to her husband. In the same year, she also wrote a more ambitious book, The Lives of the Black Letter Saints. Unhappy with her domestic life, she engaged herself in social welfare work, nursing the sick, helping the poor and writing. She fell ill in 1872 and went to London to recover.
While in London, Annie attended a lecture in St. George's Hall, Lougham Place, of the Rev. Charles Voysey, a dissenting clergyman and theist. He introduced her to Thomas Scott, a wealthy rationalist and freethinker, who distributed pamphlets critical of religion. He published her first pamphlet, On the Deity of Jesus of Nazareth By the Wife of a Beneficed Clergyman, which emphasised the humanity of Christ and questioned his divinity. In the next years Besant wrote about half a dozen 'heretical' pamphlets for Scott. She was influenced by the writings of Charles Darwin, John Stuart Mill, Auguste Comte and Ernest Renan.
It was in 1872 that she discovered accidentally her gift of public speaking. One day she locked herself in her husband's empty church, climbed the pulpit steps and delivered her first lecture.
I shall never forget the feeling of power and delight — but especially the power — that came upon me as I sent my voice ringing down the aisles, and the passion in me broke into balanced sentences and never paused for musical cadence or for rhythmical expression. [Besant, Autobiography 116]
Annie Besant became aware of the power of her voice and from that time till her death she demonstrated her vigorous oratory talent to audiences in many parts of the world.
Besant's movement from devout Christian to freethinker to atheist
When Annie Besant refused to attend the Holy Communion and began to express increasingly anti-religious views, doubted the authority of the Bible and questioned the existence of God, her husband ordered her to leave the family home, which resulted in a legal separation in 1873. He retained the custody of their son, and later of their daughter. After leaving her husband Besant and her little daughter Mabel went to live with the grandmother and two of her aunts in Folkestone. There she received a position as governess, cook, and nurse in the home of a benevolent local vicar, Mr. Woodward. In the spring of 1874, Annie's mother died and the following months became the most dreary period in her life.
Besant moved to London and lived on the small allowance awarded to her under a deed of separation. She received some help and hospitality from Thomas Scott for whom she continued to write pamphlets, which allowed her to earn some modest extra income. Soon she became attracted by politics and social reform. She developed a close relationship with Charles Bradlaugh, an atheist and leader of the secular movement in Britain and the editor of the radical National Reformer, which published articles on trade unions, national education, womens' right to vote, birth control, and the abolition of capital punishment. Bradlaugh recognised Besant's excellent abilities as a public speaker and publicist and she became an important activist in the Secularist movement. In 1876, she was elected vice-president of the National Secular Society (until 1890).
Bradlaugh, as president of the National Secular Society and Besant, as vice-president, went together around the country with lectures, and soon she became one of the most prominent champions of atheism and freethought in Britain. Besant contributed a weekly 'Daybreak' column for the National Reformer. Later she became a co-editor and eventually a co-owner of the newspaper. She wrote a number of articles on marriage, birth control, women's rights, the land question and free trade. Besides, Bradlaugh and Besant founded and ran together the Freethought Publishing Company. In 1877, she published My Path to Atheism, in which she revealed her negative attitude to the Bible and Christianity. She supported Bradlaugh's campaigns for election to parliament, and when he was elected, for his right to abstain from the Oath of Allegiance because of his atheism.
In 1879, Besant and Bradlaugh's two daughters, Alice and Hypatia, began to study at the University of London. Besant, who became interested in science, passed all the examinations required for the degrees of Bachelor of Science. She obtained highest grades in Botany and Animal Physiology, but one of the members of the examining committee (a Chemistry professor) refused to award Besant a degree due to the rumours about her freethinking attitude and 'immoral' social work. In spite of this, she taught courses in physiology at the Hall of Science in Old Street. Many years later, in 1921, she received a degree of Doctor of Letters from Benares Hindu University.
Campaigner for women's rights and birth control
Besant became an acknowledged champion of women's rights. She campaigned for the emancipation of women in England. In 1874, she spoke about women's emancipation in her first public lecture, “The Political Status of Women.” She supported the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864-69. In 1876, she published a pamphlet, The Legalisation of Female Slavery in England, in which she criticised the oppression of women and the underpayment of female workers.
Besant also fought for sexual rights for women. She was regarded by many as a scandalous woman, who left her clergyman husband to preach atheism and feminism. Although she never joined the feminist movement in Britain, she behaved like a New Woman who advocated not only a radical change in women's behaviour and attitude to men, but also in women's fashion: she propagated short skirts or trousers and short hair for active and liberated women. She also argued for female suffrage and the reform of the marriage law.
The history of the birth control movement is linked in the last quarter of the nineteenth century with the activities of Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh. In 1877, they republished and distributed an old neo-Malthusian pamphlet advocating birth control for the poor, The Fruits of Philosophy, or An Essay on the Population Question, written by the American physician Charles Knowlton. The pamphlet had been on sale in England for forty years. It explained the physiology of sex in simple language, advised and expounded the use of some rather primitive methods of contraception. (Craig 45) Bradlaugh and Besant were arrested, tried, and convicted for publishing an 'obscene libel'. However, the Bradlaugh-Besant trial made the book an overnight bestseller. Its circulation increased from an average of 700 per year to 125,000 in just one year. Both Bradlaugh and Besant won acquittal on appeal, but Annie lost custody of her daughter for ten years.
After the court case, Besant, as the first woman in Britain continued to publicly advocate birth control and neo-Malthusianism. She published her own pamphlet on birth control entitled The Laws of Population, and toured throughout the country with her lectures on Malthusian views. She was also instrumental in the establishment of the Malthusian League in 1877. The idea of a woman advocating birth control received wide publicity and 175,000 copies of her pamphlet were sold before she withdrew it from circulation in 1890. (McLaren 108)
Although Besant supported birth control, she was opposed to the concept of free love that was propagated by some radical socialists and New Woman writers in the last decade of the nineteenth century as a solution to patriarchal marriage and women's victimisation. But, notwithstanding that, she was involved in emotional attachments with some of her mentors, including Bradlaugh and Edward Aveling, who unexpectedly abandoned her in 1884 for Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx's youngest daughter. Subsequently, Besant turned her affection to George Bernard Shaw. She admired his feminism and was infatuated in him. (Singh 15), but Shaw was reluctant to transform their friendship to a love affair.
From Social activism to Socialism
Besant was a pioneer in the labour movement and campaigned for better working conditions, fair wages and adequate medical care for workers' families. She also opposed capital punishment and agitated for reforms in the British prisons. In the late 1880s, Besant supported campaigns for better working conditions of industrial workers. On 13 November 1887, she led the demonstration against unemployment in Trafalgar Square known as 'Bloody Sunday'. Besant also helped to organise huge demonstrations in the autumn of 1887 against Coercion Acts in Ireland. In 1888, she helped organise the Match Girls' Strike at the Bryant and May match factory in East London. The strike forced the management to significantly improve the working conditions of the female workers who had been exposed to white phosphorus in the matches. Eventually, she became secretary of the Matchmakers' Union.
Annie Besant c. 1885. [Click on image to enlarge it.]
In November 1888, Besant was elected to the London School Board, when she came top in a poll in Tower Hamlets with over 15,000 votes. She campaigned for free public education, free meals for undernourished children, and lobbied for free medical examinations for elementary school pupils. In 1889, she supported the London Dockers' strike and helped them form a union and obtain better wages and working conditions.
In the 1880s, Besant became attracted by socialism, which caused her estrangement from the liberal Bradlaugh. For Besant socialism became a surrogate for her lost religion. Between 1883 and 1888, Annie Besant owned and edited a liberal monthly magazine, Our Corner. Its most prominent contributors included Dr Edward Aveling, Hubert Bland, Edith Nesbit (Mrs. Hubert Bland), Charles Bradlaugh, and his daughter, Hypatia, Thomas Huxley, William Morris, George Bernard Shaw, and Sidney Webb. Besant also contributed many articles on various social and political issues, such as conditions in Ireland, British interventions in Afghanistan and Egypt, and published her Autobiographical Sketches from January 1884 to June 1885. In 1884, Our Corner revealed Besant's increasing involvement with socialism. She published a regular feature dedicated to socialist issues. In 1886, Besant contributed two articles on the subject, “Modern Socialism” and “Why I am a Socialist.”
Besant joined the Fabian Society in 1885, and contributed an essay “Industry Under Socialism&rdquo to the influential book, Fabian Essays (1889). Other contributors included George Bernard Shaw, Sydney Webb, Sydney Olivier, Graham Wallas, William Clarke and Hubert Bland. Edited by Shaw, the book sold 27,000 copies in two years. In short time Besant became a leading Fabian activist and befriended several prominent English socialists, such as Walter Crane, Edward Aveling and George Bernard Shaw.
In 1888, she joined the more radical socialist organisation, the Social Democratic Federation, and soon started her second newspaper called the Link: A Journal for the Servants of Man. She published her article, entitled “White Slavery in London,” in which she complained about the way the female employees at the Bryant & May match factory were being treated. She revealed that the women, who were paid wages far below subsistence standards, were exposed to dangerous phosphorus fumes and many developed incurable diseases.
In her campaign for female employees' rights, Besant received active support from William Stead, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Henry Hyde Champion, the editor of the Labour Elector, Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army, Hubert Llewellyn Smith, a social investigator, and the Fabians, including Sydney Oliver, Stewart Headlam, Hubert Bland, Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw.
Besant was very active in the public sphere delivering numerous public lectures on a variety subjects: reapportionment of the land, the Irish Home Rule, capital punishment, labour issues, public libraries, national education, fair trail, bail and legal defense for workers, and recreational facilities for the poor.
In the 1890s, Besant abandoned all her social work and became immersed in theosophy, a bizarre ecumenical and esoteric movement founded in America in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, a Russian-born clairvoyant, Colonel Henry S. Olcott, an American Civil War veteran and religious mystic, and William Q. Judge, an Irish-born American lawyer, mystic, esotericist and occultist. Blavatsky's vision of theosophy incorporated aspects of Western spiritualism and esotericism, Hindu mysticism, especially the belief in reincarnation, karma (fate) and spiritual evolution with speculations about the nature of God.
Her sudden and an unexpected defection from socialism to theosophy stunned many of her supporters and admirers in Britain, particularly her close friend George Bernard Shaw, as well as other Fabians and Socialists. Besant became attracted in esoteric ideas following the teachings of Madame Blavatsky, who had a reputation of an impostor. In accordance with her theosophical views, Besant believed that her calling was to be of service for all humanity and that all nations would be united in a world empire based on universal brotherhood.
Besant converted enthusiastically from socialism to theosophy after reading and reviewing for the Pall Mall the controversial work of Madame Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine (1888). She soon met her in person and the two women found and immediate spiritual kinship. Blavatsky claimed to be receiving messages from mythical Mahatmas who lived in the Tibetan Himalayas and communicated to her 'ancient wisdom' that could improve the lot of mankind. In 1889, Besant joined the Theosophical Society and began to edit together with Blavatsky the monthly theosophical journal Lucifer, which was later renamed to the Thesophical Review. Soon Besant also admitted that she was receiving similar messages like Madame Blavatsky, who died in Besant's home in London, in 1891.
After Blavatsky's death, the American section of the Theosophical Society seceded and was renamed the United Brotherhood of Theosophists, while Besant remained the unquestioned leader of the original Theosophical Society. She settled permanently in India in 1898 and in 1907 was elected President of the Theosophical Society, remaining in the office until her death in 1933. Besant spread vigorously theosophical beliefs around the world, notably in England and India. She “sought to represent Theosophy as an evolutionary science, with the concept of reincarnation at its centre.” (Burdett in Bown et al. 225)
As a theosophist, Besant revoked her notorious teachings on birth control. She bought and destroyed the unsold copies of her pamphlet, The Law of Population, and wrote a new pamphlet, Theosophy and the Law of Population, which advocated complete abstinence, since “the sexual instinct that man has in common with the brute is the most fruitful source of human misery” (Chandrasekhar 211). The Theosophical Society propagated 'universal brotherhood', self-restraint in marital relationship and the concept of sexless companionship.
While in India, Besant became convinced that her adopted son, a young Brahmin, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), was the reincarnation of Buddha, a new Messiah. Krishnamurti, aged fourteen, was “discovered” by Charles Leadbeater (1854-1934), a former Anglican priest who became a theosophist and Besant's close collaborator. In 1908, during her subsequent world tour Besant announced that Krishnamurti was to become the next World Teacher. The stunning proclamation was not accepted by all members of the Theosophical Society. Opponents accused her of straying from the theosophical doctrine and called her ideas neo-theosophy. Krishnamurti, who did not feel comfortable as the 'World Teacher', renounced this title in 1929, which seriously undermined Besant's authority.
Besant became interested in freemasonry during her first visit to India. Her friends, Francesca and George Arundale, theosophists and freemasons, took her to Paris where she was initiated to the free-masonic order Le Droit Humain, a branch of masonry which admitted women to its ranks. Besant joined the Co-Freemasonry movement in France and in 1902 she founded the British Federation of Co-Masonic Grand Lodge in London called 'Human Duty, No. 6'. Besant was elected the first Master of the Lodge and later the first Grand Commander of the British Federation. The early supporters of the English Co-Freemasonry were mostly members or the Theosophical Society, with which it had strong links. For Besant theosophy and Co-masonry were linked together. As both a theosophist and freemason, Annie Besant restored in the rituals of the Order a belief in a Supreme Divine Intelligence (God) and the principles of Universal Brotherhood and Truth. Outside Britain, she contributed to the establishment of Co-Masonry in India, Australia and New Zealand. After Besant's death in 1933, her daughter Mabel Emily Besant-Scott became briefly the head of the British Federation of Co-Freemasonry.
From theosophy to Indian Home Rule
While in England Besant identified herself with the Irish cause. After settling in India she worked for religious, social, educational and political reforms in the subcontinent. In 1898, she opened the Central Hindu College in Benares, where students could gain experience in democratic methods by participating in students' parliament. In the subsequent years she was instrumental in establishing a network of schools and colleges for Indian youths of both sexes. She also contributed to the formation of the All India Women’s Association. She campaigned against child marriage and the caste system.
Besant, who criticised British rule in India in 1916 she established, with Lokmanya Tilak (1856-1920), an Indian nationalist and social reformer, the Indian Home Rule League, of which she became president. She was also a leading member of the Indian National Congress. In June 1917, she was arrested under the Defence of India Act. Her arrest provoked a series of protests in India and abroad. President Wilson and Mahatma Gandhi, amongst others, called for her immediate release. Under international pressure, Annie Besant and two other co-internees, also members of the Theosophical Society, George Arundale and Bahman Pestonji Wadia, were released after a three-month internment.
Besant did not support Gandhi's idea of civil disobedience. Instead, she proposed that India should be a member of the British Commonwealth, which would eventually lead to “a common Government Federation for the whole world.” (Pasricha 28) She contributed significantly to the improvement of Hindu self-esteem, which had been severely damaged by British imperialism and Christian missionaries.
Death and legacy
Besant, a late Victorian radical in her youth, passed away by the turn of karma's wheel as the unquestionable leader of the international theosophical movement and a major figure in the campaign for India's home rule shortly before her 86th birthday on 20 September, 1933.
The funeral ceremony took place at Adyar. On the bier was placed the green and red flag which she had designed for India and on her breast was the seal of the Thesophical Society. After prayers of the great world religions were repeated, her body was carried into the masonic temple, where a Co-Masonic funeral ceremony was performed. The body was then carried back to the sandalwood pyre, which was lit by Leadbeater. [Prescott in Heidle and Snoek 370]
Her body was cremated in Adyar with great ceremony. Half the ashes were deposited in the Ganges, near the site where Madam Blavatsky's ashes had been cast; and half in the Garden of Remembrance at Adyar.
Almost all Besant's biographers are fascinated by her earlier public activity in late Victorian England, but can hardly explain her commitment to theosophy. Mark Bevir claims that earlier biographers have failed to find any intellectual continuity or coherence in Besant's life. Her conversion to theosophy was interpreted as a flight from reason. However, as Bevir has pointed out:
It was, therefore, Besant's crisis of faith moderated by specific social pressures that led her successively to secularism, socialism, and theosophy. Her departures from secularism to socialism, and later from socialism to theosophy, do not represent complete breaks (betrayals) brought on by the arrival of a new man in her life. They represent successive attempts to answer the same basic questions, with each new answer also being a response to the perceived failings of the earlier one. From her perspective, as opposed to ours, her socialism united the diverse demands of her earlier secular radicalism into a single scientific programme, while her theosophy accounted for the new psychological facts that had been revealed by the spiritualists and that she could not account for from within her secular socialism. 
Besant's intellectual evolution as well as her public activity can be described as a desperate attempt of a charismatic and multifaceted personality to overcome the Victorian crisis of faith and go beyond Victorian religiosity, moralism and hypocrisy to seek spiritual and social and transformation of mankind in theosophy, a new supra-religion, which did not subordinate women like Besant, but offered them a high status and the position of spiritual leaders.
The multifaceted legacy of Annie Besant embraces her early contributions to the birth control and family planning movement, free thought, un-Marxist evolutionary socialism, free public education, and women's emancipation in Britain; in India — education reform and national independence; and worldwide — modern mysticism, international leadership in the theosophical movement, promotion of the idea of universal brotherhood of man, and cross-cultural feminism.
Last but not least, the body of her writings is immense (over 380 books and pamphlets and twenty-six books co-authored, mostly with Leadbeater). Besant's books and lectures were an important factor in the popularisation of Victorian secularism and Eastern, particularly Hindu, religious and philosophical thought. In her writings Besant anticipated various strands of the New Age movement.
Besant, a late-Victorian social activist and freethinker, was one of the most influential women of her time. A committed social reformer, outstanding public orator, versatile author, freemason and theosophist, she embodied a peculiar blend of late Victorian secularism and free thought with idealised Hindu mysticism. As a radical thinker in her youth, she challenged the political, religious, ethical and social assumptions of late Victorian society. Later in her life as a theosophist, she contributed to raising Western awareness of other religious traditions, particularly Buddhism and Brahmanism, and as a social activist, she played an important role in India's fight for independence.
References and Further Reading
Bakshi, S.R. Annie Besant, Founder of the Home Rule Movement. New Delhi: Anmol Publications, 1990.
Basham, Diana. The Trial of Women. London: Macmillan, 1992.
Bennet, Olivia. Annie Besant. London: Hamilton, 1988.
Besant, Annie. An Autobiography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
_____. Autobiographical Sketches. Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor LLC, 2008.
Besterman, Theodore. Mrs. Annie Besant: A Modern Prophet. London: Kegan Paul, 1924.
Bevir, Mark. “Annie Besant’s Quest for Truth: Christianity, Secularism and New Age Thought,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 50(1) 1999, 62–93.
Bown, Nicola, Carolyn Burdett and Pamela Thurschwell, eds. The Victorian Supernatural. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Burton, Antoinette. Burdens of History: British Feminists, Indian Women and Imperial Culture, 1865-1915. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1994.
Campbell, Bruce F. Ancient Wisdom Revived. A History of the Coming of the Theosophical Movement. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980.
Chandrasekhar, S, ed. Reproductive Physiology and Birth Control: The Writings of Charles Knowlton and Annie Besant. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2002.
Dinnage, Rosemary. Annie Besant. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
Faivre, Antoine and Jacob Needleman, eds. Modern Esoteric Spirituality. New York: Crossroads Publishing Company, 1992.
Heidle Alexandra and Jan M. Snoek, eds. Women's Agency and Rituals in Mixed and Female Masonic Orders. Leiden: Koninklijke Bril NV, 2008.
Ingals, Daniel H. H. “The Heritage of a Fallible Saint: Annie Besant's Gifts to India,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 109(2),1965, 85-88.
Kilcher, Andreas, B., ed. Constructing Tradition: Means and Myths of Transmission in Western Esotericism. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2010.
Kumar, Raj. Annie Besant's Rise to Power in Indian Politics, 1914-1917. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1981.
Lachman, Gary. Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen. Wheaton, IL.: Quest Books Theosophical Publishing House, 2008.
Mackay, Carol Hanbery. “A Journal of Her Own. The Rise and Fall of Annie Besant's Our Corner.” Victorian Periodicals Review, 42(4), 2009, 324-358.
McLaren, Angus. Birth Control in Nineteenth-Century England. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1978.
Mortimer, Joanne Stafford. “Annie Besant and India 1913-1917.” Journal of Contemporary History, 18(1), 1983, 61-78.
Nethercot, Arthur H. The First Five Lives of Annie Besant. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1960.
___. The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1963.
Olson, James Stuart, Robert Shadle, eds. Historical Dictionary of the British Empire, Vol. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996.
Owen, Alex. The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism and the Culture of the Modern. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Pasricha, Ashu. Encyclopedia of Eminent Thinkers. The Political Thought of Annie Besant. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 2009.
Rappaport, Helen. Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers, Vol. 1, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, Inc. 2001.
Royle, Edward. Radicals, Secularists, and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain, 1866-1915. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980.
Singh, D. K. The Idea of the Superman in the Plays of G. B. Shaw. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 1994.
Sri Prakasa. Annie Besant as Woman and as Leader. Madras: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1941.
Taylor, Anne. Annie Besant: A Biography. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Williams, Gertrude Marvin. The Passionate Pilgrim: A Life of Annie Besant. London: John Hamilton,1931.
Last modified 20 November 2014