Synopsis of an extraordinary curriculum vitae and development of a political women

During her very long life, Mrs. Besant was, in turn, the wife of a High Church Evangelical Anglican clergyman, a militant atheist, and a leading light with Charles Bradlaugh of his politically radical but anti-socialist National Secular Society. Alongside campaigning for atheism, Mrs. Besant was also a founding member of the Malthusian League.



From working with Bradlaugh, Mrs. Besant developed a relationship with George Bernard Shaw. During the socialist revival of the mid-1880s, she became a Fabian, therefore seemingly casting off her previous anti-socialist leanings. She also became a member of the Social Democratic Federation and tried to make something of the Law and Liberty League she helped set up after Bloody Sunday (1887). She was, therefore, a woman on the left of politics by 1887.

None of these organizations allotted her the same prominence she had enjoyed with Bradlaugh, and she moved towards New Unionism. She, therefore, became associated with radical left-wing workers’ politics.
In 1889 she repudiated both politics and atheism and became a Theosophist, becoming the movement’s world president until 1907.
For the rest of her life, Mrs. Besant would spend at least half her time in India, setting up schools and retreats with the funds she raised from well-connected Theosophists. In 1918 she was briefly the head of the Indian National Congress.