Annie Besant, “History Adorned” series
Annie Besant (1847 – 1933) was a social activist, orator, and writer turned Theosophy leader who became a key advocate for Indian home rule. Besant was born in London and married Frank Besant, a clergyman, at 20. Besant’s marriage soon unraveled with her increasingly political and social causes and her eventual disdain for the Christian church. Separated and back in London with her daughter, she became a vocal and radical champion for the working class. In 1877, she and her friend, Charles Bradlaugh, published a controversial book promoting birth control for working class families. The two were arrested, put on trial, and eventually released. However, her former husband sued and won full custody of her children. In 1888, Besant helped the match girl workers demand higher wages and a safer work environment. The success of the “Match Girl strike” was a critical win for workers and trade unions. She went on to help the Dockers, as well. Besant was a Socialist, a Marxist and a Freemason during her early career. After meeting, Helena Blavatsky, the president of the Theosophy Society, she fully embraced this spiritual movement, moved to India, and eventually became the president as well. She established a school in India and adopted a boy, who she groomed to become the world teacher of Theosophy. In India, she joined the Indian National Congress and was a vocal proponent for independence from British rule until her death. Besant wrote over 300 books and pamphlets during her lifetime. Her book, Thought Forms, co-written with Charles Webster Leadbeater, was very likely an influential read for Hilma af Klint. The theosophical book describes the materiality of thoughts into music, experiences, and emotions.
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