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Annie Besant: An Autobiography by Annie Wood…

Annie Besant: An Autobiography

by Annie Wood Besant

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This autobiography disturbed and intrigued me in equal measures. For my sins, I knew Annie Besant as a leading figure in the Bryant and May match girl strike. I, therefore, approached this book as the story of a political leader: this was only partially true. Besant was a good Christian girl who after marrying a parson, started to doubt her faith. Sadly, she did not meet with sympathetic help but with scorn from a nineteenth century English society which, thought that, anything other than complete orthodoxy was so heinous a crime, that the perpetrator must be crushed. Annie was too strong a lady to crush, but she did lose her faith altogether. I cannot think of a greater crime than taking a person's faith from them. With that strange quirk that is apt to happen, I was reading this book at the time of the trial and committal of the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot. It is depressing to see that the same bigotry still exists today; does nothing really change?

Besant clearly held her fight with the moral bigots as the most important issue in her life because she devotes far more of her biography to the story of this loss and her eventual adoption of the curious Theosophy, at the hands of H. P. Blavatsky, than she does to her sterling work for the poor and downtrodden in society. When she does speak about these people, it is amazing that a well brought up lady of the 1880's should be able to speak with such care and lack of condescension.

I have long respect Annie Besant, in an age when it was not just acceptable, but the norm, to treat women as a sub-species, Annie effectively showed us chaps how to fight against oppression: not only did she fight for the match girls, she set up what was, effectively, the first trade union. Typical of the lady, this was not a movement to drive a wedge between 'us and them', but a union that brought benefits to both the workers and the factory owners.

It says something of our reluctance, even today, to admit that a woman could have achieved so much in the birth of the Labour movement, that Annie Besant is not a more widely revered figure. This autobiography is one of many excellent books available free, gratis and for nothing on the excellent Amazon Kindle. If you own such a device and do not download a copy of this book, then shame on you and, if you do not have a Kindle, then buy it in book form! ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Aug 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0835675688, Hardcover)

The autobiography of the successor to Blavatsky in the Theosophist Society. Illustrated. Contents: Out of everywhere into the here; Early childhood; Girlhood; Marriage; Storm of doubt; Charles Bradlaugh; Atheism as I knew and taught it; At work; Knowlton pamphlet; At war all round; Mr. Bradlaugh's struggle; Still fighting; Socialism; Through storm to peace.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:53 -0400)

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