Besant was a British social reformer, political leader, writer, orator, campaigner for women's rights and a supporter of Indian nationalism.She was first woman president of Indian National Congress. She also founded Home Rule League in 1916 and demand self-rule in India.
Annie Besant was born as Annie Wood on October 1, 1847 in a middle-class family in London.She was of Irish origin.She had an unhappy childhood, undoubtedly partly due to her father's death when she was five.Annie's mother persuaded her friend Ellen Marryat, sister of the writer Frederick Marryat, to take responsibility for her daughter and Ellen ensured that Annie received a good education.
Annie Besant was married in 1867 to a clergyman called Frank Besant. But the marriage did not last long. They legally separated in 1873. Annie Besant had two children from the marriage. After her separationBesant became a member of the National Secular Society, which preached 'free thought', and also of the Fabian Society, the noted socialist organization. Annie began to question not only her long-held religious beliefs but the whole of conventional thinking. She began to write attacks on the Churches and the way they controlled people’s lives. In particular she attacked the status of the Church of England as a state-sponsored faith.
In the 1870s, Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh edited the weekly National Reformer, which advocated advanced ideas for the time on topics such as trade unions, national education, and women’s right to vote, and birth control. For their pamphlet on birth control the pair was brought to trial for obscenity, but was subsequently acquitted.Social and political reform seems not to have satisfied Besant's hunger for some all-embracing truth to replace the religion of her youth. She became interested in Theosophy, a religious movement founded in 1875 and based on Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation. As a member and later leader of the Theosophical Society, Besant helped to spread Theosophical beliefs around the world, notably in India.
Besant first visited India in 1893 and later settled there, becoming involved in the Indian nationalist movement. In 1916 she established the Indian Home Rule League, of which she became president. She became the President of Indian National Congress in 1917. She was the first woman to hold that post. She started a newspaper, "New India", criticized British rule and was jailed for sedition.After the arrival of Gandhiji on Indian national scene, differences arose between Mahatma Gandhi and Annie Besant. Gradually, she withdrew from active politics.
Annie Besant died on September 20, 1933 at Adyar (Madras). As per her wish her ashes were immersed in Ganga in Benares.