ChronologyA year-by-year list of the principal events of Annie Besant's life, specially keyed to A Bibliography of Annie Besant (1833-1947).
1847 October 1: Annie Wood Besant Born in Clapham, London, to William Burton Persse Wood and Emily Roche Morris Wood.
1852 Father dies, October 5.
1855 Privately educated, with several others, by Miss Marryat, a wealthy unmarried woman of Evangelical leanings (until 1864).
1861 First travels in Europe: Belgium, Germany, France.
1862 Confirmed as a Catholic in Paris.
1866 Easter: Meets Rev. Frank Besant (Anglican), brother of writer Walter Besant, and becomes engaged. Summer: Travels in Switzerland. Writes first essays: A Paper on the Duty of Fasting, and Fasting Communion.
1867 December: At 19 marries Rev. Frank Besant, age 26. Honeymoons in Paris. Takes up parish work with husband in Cheltenham.
1868 Publishes first story in The Family Herald: Sunshine and Shade. A Tale Based on Fact.
1869 Son Arthur Digby born.
1870 Daughter Mabel Emily born. Frank publishes her first essay as pamphlet: Notes on Fasting, by a Layman.
1871 Unhappy in marriage, plagued by religious doubt, contemplates suicide.
1872 Meets dissenting clergyman, Rev. Charles Voysey, a theist. Through him meets Thomas Scott, who publishes her first pamphlets questioning Christianity.
1873 Stops taking communion. Marriage ends in permanent separation. Takes custody of Mabel. Becomes an atheist.
1874 May 10: Mother dies. August 2: Joins the National Secular Society. Meets Charles Watts, who prints some of her pamphlets, and befriends political reformer Charles Bradlaugh. August 25: First public lecture, The Political Status of Women. August 30: Publishes her first article in The National Reformer, under the name Ajax. September 27: Second lecture, The True Basis of Morality.
1875 January 17: Begins lecturing and touring as advocate of freethought and social reform, with lecture on "Civil and Religious Liberty" at South Place Chapel, Finsbury. February 28: First lecture at the Hall of Science, London (returns frequently for the next 16 years). September: Pens the English Marseillaise, often sung at gatherings of the National Secular Society.
1876 March: Begins contributing a column entitled "English Sketches" to American weekly newspaper The Index, published in Boston, edited by Francis Ellingwood Abbot, an advocate of Free Religion (March 30: The Sham of Sundays; April 6: Christian Agression; November 2: the unfairness to women of British divorce laws). While touring in England, is heckled by Christians with words, rocks, blows. May: Elected a vice-president of the National Secular Society (serving until 1890).
1877 Becomes sub-editor of The National Reformer. February 25: Establishes Freethought Publishing Company with Bradlaugh, which publishes her pamphlets until Bradlaugh’s death in 1891. April 6: Arrested with Bradlaugh for reprinting and selling a pamphlet on birth control (the Knowlton pamphlet). Represents herself in court. July 26: Malthusian Society established in the wake of the trial (AB acts as secretary).
1878 Mabel legally removed from her custody. Begins editing The National Secular Society’s Almanack with Bradlaugh (until 1889).
1879 Meets Dr. Edward Aveling, who becomes her tutor in science. June: Matriculates at London University (Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution), shortly after it allows women to do so. Is blocked from getting her degree by an examiner who disapproves of her atheism and “immoral” social work. Qualifies by examination as science teacher in eight subject areas. Conducts science classes at South Kensington (until 1888). October 11: Meets Herbert Burrows.
1880 April 2: Charles Bradlaugh elected to Parliament as a member for Northampton. Provides him with crucial political and emotional support during a six year struggle, with Parliament over whether the oath required to take his seat (after numerous resignations and reelections) was binding on an avowed atheist, and with the court system over allegations of blasphemy. August 25: Represents English Freethinkers at an international conference in Brussels. Meets biologist Dr. Ludwig Büchner, whose work she translates.
1881 Begins co-editing The National Reformer with Bradlaugh (until 1887). February 10: Conference on Land Reform organized and publicized by Besant and others.
1882 Moves Freethought Publishing Co. office to 63 Fleet Street, remaining there until 1891. First becomes aware of and writes about the Theosophical Society (National Reformer, June 18).
1883 January: First issue of Our Corner, periodical founded by Besant and published until 1888. Begins moving toward socialism.
1884 Meets George Bernard Shaw, whose work she publishes in Our Corner.
1885 Joins Shaw’s socialist Fabian Society. Helps workmen achieve fair trials, providing bail and legal advice and defense.
1886 Forms the Charing Cross Parliament within the Fabian Society, to debate political questions and practice parliamentary procedure. June 9-11: Organizes and speaks at a socialist conference on "The Present Commercial System."
1887 Meets W. T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette. Joins London School Board, campaigning for free education and meals for needy children, regardless of sex. Resigns as co-editor of The National Reformer because of her socialist views, but continues to contribute. November 18: Establishes Law and Liberty League with Stead.
1888 February 4-December 1: Publishes a weekly newspaper on Socialism, The Link, with Stead. June: Organizes the Match-Girls’ Strike with Herbert Burrows, leading to the formation of the first Match-Makers’ Union. Begins studying spiritualism, considers starting a church “dedicated to the service of man.” September 1: Joins the Marxist Social Democratic Federation (SDF). November 13: Participates in Bloody Sunday in Trafalgar Square, when police brutally break up a free speech demonstration.
1889 March: Attends International Trades Union Congress, London. April 25: Reviews H. P. Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine for Stead. May 10: Meets Madame Blavatsky (HPB). May 21: Joins the Theosophical Society. July 15-20: Embroiled in controversy between rival Socialist and Marxist groups at International Labor Congress in Paris. Joins HBP in Fontainebleau and witnesses the composition of The Voice of the Silence. August 4 and 11: Hall of Science lectures, Why I Became a Theosophist. September 4: Meets H. S. Olcott, cofounder of the Theosophical Society and current president for life. September: Begins editing the monthly theosophical journal Lucifer with HPB.
1890 Meets Charles Webster Leadbeater (CWL). Under the direction of HPB, establishes a live-in Club for Working Women in the East End. January 17: Elected President of the Blavatsky Lodge. March: Resigns from the National Secular Society. May 1: Speaks at SDF demonstration in Hyde Park. July: 19 Avenue Road, Besant’s rented home, after remodeling and addition of new meeting hall, becomes new headquarters for the European Section of the TS, Blavatsky Lodge including living quarters for HPB and a secret Occult Room for meetings of the inner group of the Esoteric Section. October: Visits Ireland for the first time, lecturing on Theosophy (Why I Became a Theosophist), Socialism (The Class War), and Freethought (Can Christ Atone for the Sins of Man?; Is the Bible Impregnable?; and Why We Preach Socialism). November: Resigns Fabian Society. December: Bradlaugh and Besant dissolve the Freethought Publishing Company.
1891 January 30: Bradlaugh dies. Resigns from Malthusian League. April 1: Departs England for her first lecture tour in the United States, including New York, Brooklyn, Washington, Boston, and Springfield (Dangers Menacing Society; Labour Movements in the Old World; London, Its Wealth and Poverty; What Is Theosophy?). April 26-27: Attends the TS American Section Convention in Boston (Theosophy and Its Message to the Western World). May 6: Embarks for England. May 8: HPB dies (this date becomes White Lotus Day in the Theosophical Society, in remembrance). Succeeds HPB as head of the TS Esoteric Section in Europe, takes over editorship of Lucifer. William Quan Judge, one of the original founders of the TS, becomes head of the Esoteric Section in America. While Judge is in England, she receives series of Mahatma letters urging her to support him against Olcott. Steps down from London School Board. July 9-10: Attends the Theosophical Society in Europe’s first annual convention in London. Resigns from SDF. August 30: Farewell to secularism in Hall of Science lecture, 1875 to 1891: A Fragment of Autobiography. November 18: Sails for second brief lecture tour in the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Consults with Judge over Mahatma letter alleging that Olcott would poison her if she went to India. December 16: Returns to England.
1892 May 7: Daughter Mabel marries Ernest Scott (divorced 1915). November: Begins coast-to-coast lecture tour of the United States, including New York, Chicago, Fort Wayne, Tacoma, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Harlem, Boston.
1893 Granddaughter Muriel Besant-Scott born. March 4: Returns to England. June: Lectures in Holland. July: Attends Convention of the European Section in London–having delivered 233 lectures in the previous year. August: Meets Professor Gyanendra Chakravati, Hindu delegate to the World Parliament of Religions, who becomes her first tutor in Hinduism. August 26: Departs England for fourth American tour. September 15-16: Lectures at the World Parliament of Religions, Chicago. September 20: Sails for England. East End Working Women’s Club closes. October: Publishes her Autobiography. October 20: Departs for first visit to India. Delivers three Lectures aboard the Kaiser-I-Hind: in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea (A Word on Man: His nature and His Powers), and the Indian Ocean (India, Her Past and Her Future). November 9: Lands in Ceylon. November 11: Lectures on Karma. November 16: Arrives in India. December 20: Reaches Adyar. Delivers first International Convention lectures, The Building of the Kosmos. Talks on India and Its Mission. Consults with H. S. Olcott about the problem of Mahatma letters allegedly forged by Judge.
1894 Begins to study Sanskrit. Completes four-month lecture tour in India (121 lectures for audiences of 600 to 6000). Meets Bhagavan Das in Benares. Olcott suspends Judge as Vice-President of the TS. Son Arthur Digby marries. March 20: Departs for England from Bombay. Controversy over alleged conversion to Hinduism. Makes pledge not to become involved in Indian politics. May: Travels to Sweden for first annual TS Convention in Stockholm, with visits to Göteborg, Upsala, and Copenhagen. Paris: Lectures in ballroom of the Duchesse de Pomar (Lady Caithness). July 12, London: European TS Convention. July 10: Judicial Committee investigates allegations against Judge, who is reinstated as Vice-President. July 25: Embarks for tour of Australia and New Zealand. Translates the Bhagavad Gita. August 26: Arrives in Australia. Charters Australian Section of the TS. September: Takes on editorship of Lucifer with G. R. S. Mead. October 1: Arrives in New Zealand. October 29: The Westminster Gazette publishes Isis Very Much Unveiled: The Great Mahatma Hoax, a series of articles running for ten days impugning the underlying principles and early history of the TS, as well as Besant’s involvement, bringing the Judge affair out into the open. December 18: Reaches Ceylon. December 22: Arrives in India, addresses Indian National Congress for the first time. December 25-28: Lectures at International Convention in Adyar: The Self and Its Sheaths.
1895 Receives coveted Subba Row award after publication of The Self and Its Sheaths. Sets up headquarters for the Indian Section of the TS in Benares. February: Articles in Lucifer rebutting the Westminster Gazette, reprinted as pamphlet. March: Returns to England. April: American Section, headed by Judge, secedes. May: Self-publishes The Case against W. Q. Judge. Olcott expels Judge and revokes charters of lodges that supported him. July: European TS Convention, London--more lodges secede. August: Clairvoyant investigation of Atlantis, Devachan (the heaven world), the early history of our planetary chain, Lemuria, the occult chemistry of the atom, and thought forms with CWL. December: International Convention in Adyar.
1896 First grandson born to Arthur Digby, dies the following year. March 21: W. Q. Judge dies. April 4: Leaves India for Europe. London lecture series later published the following year as The Ancient Wisdom. Ill from exhaustion, recovers at country estate of Esther Bright. July: Presides over the Sixth Convention of the European Section in London. August: Lectures in England. September: Holland. September 28: Back in India. October: Indian Section Convention. December: International Convention in Adyar. Winter 1896-97: Tours northern India: the Punjab, Sind, Macer, Peshawar, Hyderabad, recruiting support for Central Hindu College.
1897 Beginning of decades of personal attacks by Mrs. Katherine A. Tingley on the TS and Annie Besant (AB), self-appointed successor to Judge in America. March 18: Arrives in New York for American lecture tour, in competition with Tingley. Shows colored slides of auras and thought forms, a popular innovation in lecture presentation. Passes through New York, Brooklyn, Newark, Washington, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Topeka, Denver, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, Ogden, San Diego, Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Francisco (celebrates White Lotus Day on May 8), Oakland, Alameda, Stanford University, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Portland, Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Butte, Anaconda, Helena, Sheridan (June 15), Lincoln, Omaha, Iowa, Chicago (American Convention), Clinton, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Milwaukee, Muskegon, Detroit, Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, Buffalo, Niagra Falls, Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester (meeting Susan B. Anthony), Boston, back to Chicago. Revitalizes and organizes the American Section of the TS. Summer: Third volume of HPB's The Secret Doctrine published, edited by Besant from posthumous papers. September: Back in England. Changes the name of Lucifer to The Theosophical Review, continues editing the journal with Mead. December: Lectures in Paris, Nice, Toulon (in French). Decides to stay in Europe rather than lecture at the International Convention in Adyar.
1898 January: Lecture tour in Scandinavia, beginning in Copenhagen, and proceeding to Göteborg (January 6), Stockholm, Upsala, Lund, Christiana. June 26: Lecture tour in Holland, starting off from Hamburg: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Haarlem, The Hague. February: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Nottingham. March 14: Leaves London for Paris, Nice, and Rome (Lectures in French on Giordano Bruno). Heads for India. April 5: Back in Benares. June 20: Back in London. July: Central Hindu College established in Benares (in absentia). July 8-10: Attends European Section Convention in London. September 18: Returns to Benares. Lectures on the Mahabarata at Central Hindu College [becomes 1899 The Story of the Great War]. October 25-27: Indian Section Convention in Benares, where it’s decided to hold December International Convention in Adyar and Benares in alternate years. December 21: Back in Adyar for International Convention.
1899 Granddaughter Amorel Besant born. January: Visits Burma. Returns to India for CHC development work. April 22: Departs for England. May 6: Arrives in England. May 28: Queen’s Hall lecture series, The Ascent of Man. July 7-9: European Convention in London. Tours Amsterdam, Brussels. August: Attends performances of Wagner’s operas at Bayreuth and lectures on the legend of Parsifal. September: Second Queen’s Hall lecture series. September 21: Last meeting in Blavatsky Hall Lodge, 19 Avenue Road, Besant’s former residence, before relocation of the lodge to less expensive quarters. October: Returns to Benares to her recently built bungalow Shanti Kunja (Grove of Peace) on the land of CHC, for many years her preferred place of retirement for rest and recharge. December: In Adyar for International Convention.
1900 Begins lecturing in India on social reform. January: Southern India. February-March: Northern India. April 7: Embarks for Europe, with lecture stops in Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Lucerne. May 19: Arrives in England. May-June: Lectures on The Emotions, Their Place, Evolution, Culture, and Use [basis for 1904 A Study in Consciousness]. Attends Paris TS Convention. July: Attends European Section Convention in London. Talks on Thought Power at section headquarters [basis for 1901 Thought Power]. August: Tours English lodges. September 24: Heads back to India. November-December Lectures in northern India. December: In Benares for International Convention.
1901 Takes over and edits Arya Bala Bodhini (Hindu Boys’ Journal), originally sponsored by H. S. Olcott, changing its name to Central Hindu College Magazine: A Journal for Hindu Boys, which soon achieves a circulation of 15,000. Lectures on Ramayana at CHC [basis for 1901 Shri Ramachandra: The Ideal King]. Undertakes 3500 mile fund-raising tour for CHC. December: Back in Adyar for International Convention.
1902 More touring in India. April 19: Departs for England. Joins the Co-Freemasonry Movement (Masonic lodges that include women) in Paris, soon to achieve 33rd degree and become Most Puissant Grand Commander of the British Jurisdiction and Very Illustrious Vice-President, Member of the Supreme Council. August: In Holland and Brussels. October 15: Leaves London for continental tour–Berlin, Paris, Geneva, Grenoble, Marseilles, Nice, Genoa, Florence, Bologna, Milan, Turin. November 24: Heads back to India. December: In Adyar for International Convention.
1903 Spends entire year in India. December 27: In Adyar for International Convention. Delivers lecture on The Value of Theosophy in the Raising of India to a crowd of 5000.
1904 January: Tours India. February-March: In Benares. April 8: Departs for Europe: Rome, Florence, Genoa, Paris. June: In London. Lectures at Albermarle Street on Bhagavan Das’s The Science of Peace [becomes 1912 An Introduction to the Science of Peace]. Presides over first International Congress of the Federation of European Sections in Holland. July: British Annual Convention. Tours English lodges. September: Scandinavia, Germany. November 17: Rome. Visits the Pope at the Vatican. December: Establishes a Girls’ School in Benares. In Adyar for International Convention.
1905 Granddaughter Sylvia Besant born. Six week tour of northern India, including Kashmir and Tibet. April: TS incorporated. May 13: Departs for Europe--Milan, Budapest, Strasbourg, Nancy. June 10-21: Attends Supreme Council of International Co-Freemasonry event in Paris. July 8-10: European Federation Convention in London. Paris: Lectures on Hatha and Raja Yoga in French. September 23: Back in Benares. Tours India. October: Welcomes the Prince of Wales and consort (later crowned King George V and Queen Mary) to CHC. November: CWL returns to Adyar, via Australia, for first time in sixteen years. December: In Adyar for International Convention.
1906 Spends the entire year in India. February: CWL visits Shanti Kunja in Benares. Letter from America detailing charges against him arrives. February 20: Prince and Princess of Wales tours Cental Hindu College. May 17: Behind-the-scene troubles in the TS over CWL’s offering advice on sexuality to pubescent boys become public, after internal investigation. He resigns from the TS. December: AB in Adyar for International Convention.
1907 February 17: H. S. Olcott, President of the Theosophical Society dies, with AB in attendance, whom he nominates as his successor. March: Takes over editorship of The Theosophist, published from Adyar. May 1: Departs for Europe. Attends International Congress in Munich. June-July: The London Lectures at Queen’s Hall. Tours Harrogate, Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow. July 6: Elected president of the TS, amid controversy. Establishes HPB Lodge in London. Lectures in Paris on Yoga. August: Establishes International Committee for Research into Mystic Tradition, which dissolves after a year. Resigns editorship of The Theosophical Review. Mead takes over in September. Holidays in Weisser Hirsch, Germany with CWL and others, furthering clairvoyant research into occult chemistry. Writes H. P. Blavatsky and the Masters of the Wisdom, an account of the Coulomb affair. September: Sails for America to attend American Convention in Chicago on the 15th. Tours Washington, Philadelphia, New York, New England. October: Back in Europe, visits London, northern Germany, Denmark, Sweden. Has audience in Stockholm with King Oscar. Passes from Italy to Ceylon. November 30: Back at Adyar. December: Attends International Convention in Benares.
1908 January: Establishes The Adyar Bulletin, published monthly until 1929. February: Founds the Theosophical Order of Service. Initiates expansion of Adyar property to 266 acres. May: Begins publishing The Link for the TS Esoteric School (ES, formerly called the Esoteric Section or Eastern School). Inaugurates the Vasanta Press (the name means Spring in Sanskrit, but also represents a transliteration of Besant’s name; also sometimes called Besant Press and Besant Power Press). May 26: Arrives in Australia for a tour of Fremantle, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland, Brisbane; Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand, and Hobart in Tasmania (over 17,500 miles, delivering forty-four lectures and attending ninety meetings). August: Back in Adyar. October: Establishes two youth groups, the Sons of India and the Daughters of India, as well as the Round Table (for teenagers) for the social and spiritual betterment of humanity. December: CWL reinstated at International Convention (Adyar). December 31: AB announces the coming of a World Teacher.
1909 January: Tours southern India. February: The Theosophical Review discontinued (merged into The Theosophist). February 10: CWL returns to Adyar. AB Resumes clairvoyant research with CWL. March: Invited to Durbar with Viceroy Lord Minto and wife. April: CWL discovers J. Krishnamurti. April 23: Heads back to Europe, with stops in Italy, London, Budapest (May 31-June 1, International Theosophical Congress), Belgium, Scotland. Participates in International Anti-Vivisection and Animal Protection Congress. June-July: Queen’s Hall lectures on The Changing World. July 2: Annual Convention of Great Britain and Ireland. Sails for America. July 31: Arrives in New York. American tour includes Syracuse, Buffalo, Grand Rapids, Chicago (August 11), Duluth, Minneapolis, Butte, Seattle, Vancouver (August 24), Pasadena (September 4), San Diego, Kansas City, Chicago, Boston, and New York (September 29). October 2: Onward to Ireland, including Dublin and Belfast. Then Oxford (October 20), Holland, Paris (October 31), Geneva, Lyon (November 3), Nice, Genoa (November 10). November 17: Embarks for India. November 28: Back in Adyar. December: Attends International Convention in Benares, lecturing on Occultism and Mysticism. Has reportedly traveled 45,000 miles on TS business for the year, lecturing all the while.
1910 Shuttles back and forth between Adyar and Benares. Works with CWL on clairvoyant investigations for The Lives of Alcyone (Krishnamurti). February 10: Takes over guardianship of Krishnamurti and his brother Nityananda from their father Narayaniah. August-September: Works with CWL on further clairvoyant investigations for 1913 Man: Whence, How, and Whither? November 11: In Benares for visit of the Viceroy and Lord Minto to Central Hindu College. December: Attends International Convention in Adyar. At the Feet of the Master first goes on sale, soon to be translated into twenty-seven languages and sell over 100,000 copies.
1911 January 16-February 10: Tours Burma, lecturing on The Noble Eightfold Path. April 22: Heads to England with Krishnaji and Nitya. May 5: In London. June: Inaugurates the Order of the Star in the East, designed to support Krishnaji in his role as World Teacher. June 12-17: Paris. Lectures in the Sorbonne, in French, on The Message of Giordano Bruno to the Modern World. June 17: Participates in demonstration for Women’s Suffrage with up to 70,000 women. June 22: Attends coronation of King George V with Krishna and Nitya. September 3: Lays foundation for London TS headquarters (commandeered by the government during WWI and never returned or completed as planned). October: Back in India, alternating between Adyar and Benares. December: International Convention in Benares. December 28: Apparent confirmation of Krishnaji’s role as World Teacher at a meeting of the Order of the Star in the East.
1912 January 12: Herald of the Star begins publication as quarterly, soon to become monthly. Founds the Temple of the Rosy Cross within the Order of the Star in the East. February 3: Departs India for England with Krishnaji and Nitya, who remain for some months in Taormina, Sicily. February 23: Back In London. March: Queen’s Hall lectures in London. Southern Federation Conference, Bath. March 18-23: Tours Holland. Paris (April 5), Turin (April 6). May-July: In Taormina with Leadbeater, Krishnaji and Nitya, and others, to rest and finish 1913 Man: Whence, How, and Whither? July 13: Convention for England and Wales in London. August 2-3: Northern Federation Conference, Harrogate. August 23: Departs England. September 6: Arrives in India. Tours various towns. Organizes the Theosophical Order of Sannyasis (Renunciates). October 24: Lawsuit filed by J. Narayaniah over custody of Krishnaji and Nitya (carries on until 1914). Remains in Adyar till end of the year preparing to represent herself in court. December: International Convention in Adyar.
1913 January 1: The Theosophist Office becomes The Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar. January 7: Establishes The Young Citizen, published monthly for young theosophists (until 1915). February: The Link (journal of the Esoteric Section) discontinued. May 17: Departs for England. March 20: Custody trial begins, focusing on allegations of improper conduct by CWL against Krishnaji, before several thousand spectators. Besant represents herself, loses custody, appeals. June: Queen’s Hall lectures in London. July 14-18: Presides over Congress of European Sections, Stockholm. June 23: Embarks for India. July 3: Arrives in Bombay. Stays mostly at Adyar, working on the court case. Loses appeal in Narayaniah case. Succession of Rudolf Steiner and much of the German Section of the TS over the “Coming of a World Teacher” teachings. Hands over the reins of Central Hindu College, which is transformed into Benares Hindu University. Establishes the Theosophical Educational Trust to create schools and colleges in India open to all students, regardless of religion, but providing religious instruction as part of the curriculum. Founds the Brothers of Service, designed to improve social and spiritual life through a practical application of Theosophy to world problems. October: Enters Indian political arena with goal of achieving dominion status, with lectures published in 1913 Wake up, India! December: International Convention in Benares.
1914 January 2: Starts publishing The Commonweal, a weekly journal dedicated to the topic of national reform (published until March 1920). April 23: Departs India. May 7: Arrives in England. Wins appeal to the Privy Council over the Narayaniah case. Queen’s Hall lectures. Tours Glasgow and Edinburgh. May 20-24: Paris TS Conference. July 10: Back in India. July 14: Buys the daily newspaper The Madras Standard. August 1: Renames the paper New India (published August 1914-May 1929). Circulation rises to 10,000 by year end. July 6: Reelected president of the TS. Founds the YMIA (Young Men’s Indian Association) in Madras, building and donating Gokhale Hall as its home and a center for free speech. December: International Convention in Adyar. A resolution is passed to hold the convention in other locations in India besides Adyar and Benares.
1915 Granddaughter Muriel Besant marries George Herman Shapiro. Unable to travel to Europe because of WWI. Remains in India, engaged in theosophical, educational, and political work. February: Forms a Madras Parliament for training in parliamentary procedure and political propagandizing. Revives Sons and Daughters of India, which had lapsed in 1911. April 2-4: President of the United Provinces Provincial Conference, Gorakpur and delivers presidential address. Gandhi visits Adyar. October 5: Lectures in Calcutta on Why India Wants Home Rule. December 16: Initiates Adyar Arts League. December 25-29: TS International Convention in Bombay, also the site of the Indian National Congress. Home Rule League separates from Indian National Congress, with AB as first Organizing Secretary of the Central Committee.
1916 Much travel throughout India for theosophical, educational, and political work. Inaugurates the Home Rule League. Founds the Girls’ College, Benares. Starts Ghokale Society in Madras, in honor of a famous Indian patriot who died the previous year. May: Government attempts to silence New India. June 12: Organizes Auxiliary Home Rule League, London. Forbidden by externment to enter the Bombay Presidency. October: Further forbidden to enter Berar and the Central Provinces. December: Attends TS International Convention and Indian National Congress in Lucknow.
1917 Continues traveling throughout India for theosophical, educational, and political work. March: Theosophical Publishing Society, London, becomes the London branch of the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar. April 7: Establishes the Order of the Brothers of Service. April 21: Estranged husband Rev. Frank Besant dies in England. May 8: Initiates the Women’s Indian Association, acting as president. June 16-September 15: Interned by the Madras government. Distribution of all publications prior to 1917 forbidden, mail censored. Removes to TS property in Ootacamund. July 3: Distribution of purely theosophical writings allowed after examination by government officials. August: Elected president of the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress. Establishes Indian Boy Scout Association. December: Founds Society for the Promotion of National Education (SPNE) and a National University of India in Adyar. December 26-29: Presides over the 32nd session of the Indian National Congress, Calcutta, with presidential address on December 26--The Case for India. TS International Convention in Calcutta.
1918 Tours with lecture: Why India Wants Home Rule. Asked to stand for election to British Parliament, but prevented from announcing her candidacy by government interference with her cable communications. Accused of receiving funds from Germany to destabilize the Indian government. Reorganizes the Indian Boy Scouts, due to rivalry between her association and a government-approved one. June 7: Addresses Home Rule League, Bombay, on the Congress League Scheme. December: International Convention in Delhi.
1919 January 1: Presides over All-India Ladies Conference, Delhi. Tide of Indian political sentiment turns against her, favoring Gandhi. Organizes National Home Rule League when All-India Home Rule League breaks down. Editorializes against Amritsar Massacre. June 6: Visits England for first time since 1914. Campaigns for Home Rule for India, Ireland, Scotland. Presides over TS Convention for England and Wales. Founds United India, published as a weekly in London until 1921. Resigns editorship in the fall. October: Queen’s Hall lectures. November 25: Departs for India. December 19: Arrives Bombay. International Convention in Benares.
1920 Engages in political activities throughout India. Opposes Gandhi’s plans for noncooperation at a special session of the Indian National Congress in Calcutta and is jeered at by thousands. Liberal Catholic Church (LCC) controversy within the TS. October 24-26: Presides over Indian Section Convention, Benares. December: International Convention in Adyar for first time since 1914.
1921 January 11: Severs connection with the National Congress over the issue of Gandhian non-cooperation. April 3: Presides over First Reforms Conference, Calicut (against Gandhian non-cooperation). April 6: Indian Boy Scouts merges with the worldwide Baden-Powell scout organization, appointed Honorable Commissioner for All-India of the Boys Scouts Association. May: Australian Tour. May 28: Departs India for England. June 12: In London. June-July: Queen’s Hall lectures. Tours England. July: Attends slander trial against the London Daily Graphic over their reprinting an Edinburgh Review article accusing her of seditious activities in India in Edinburgh. July 6: Reelected as president of the TS. July 23-26: Presides over first Theosophical World Congress, Paris. July 26: Lectures in French at Sorbonne. Lecture tour of France, Belgium, Holland, England, Wales. August 13: Departs for India. Delivers Presidential address to the National Home Rule League, Bombay. Agitation begins in Australian Section against AB, CWL, and the LCC. December 14: Receives honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Benares Hindu University. Names February 17 as Adyar Day to commemorate the death of President-Founder H. S. Olcott (also CWL’s birthday). Starts 1921 Political Club in Madras, with plans for drawing up a constitution for India. December: International Convention in Benares.
1922 Primarily in India. TS agitation against her spreads to US and Canada. April 22: Departs for Ceylon. May-June: Australian Tour. June 22: Returns to Adyar. July 22: Begins campaign for an Indian constitution written by the Indians themselves. October 5: Establishes the Brahmavidya (Divine Wisdom) Ashram at Adyar, to bring East and West together by study of mysticism, religion, philosophy, literature, art, and science. November 29: Presides over Social Service Conference, Bombay. December: International Convention in Adyar.
1923 Continuing agitation against AB in America, Australia, and France. January-May: Tours India for theosophical, educational, and political work. February: Acts as General Secretary to a conference in Delhi on how to frame an Indian constitution in preparation for a proposed National Convention on the subject. Campaigns for a National Convention to further a constitutional Commonwealth of India Bill. April: Initiates a Youth Movement within the TS. May: Composes prayer “O Hidden Life.” May-August: Ill from blood poisoning after venomous bite. December: International Convention in Benares.
1924 TS agitation against AB spreads to England. February: Second conference about the proposed National Convention. Continues campaign for a Commonwealth of India Bill. March 26: Heads back to England. Elected vice-president of the British India Union. Granddaughter Muriel Besant-Scott Shapiro dies unexpectedly, leaving four young children. June-July: Queen’s Hall lectures. July-August: First airplane flights. Attends conferences of the TS (London, Paris, Germany, Holland), the Star in the East (Holland), and Co-Freemasonry (Paris). July-October: Jubilees of Besant’s social and political service celebrated in London (July 23), Bombay, and Madras, honoring the 50th anniversary of her first public lecture on The Political Status of Women. August: First International Star Camp with Krishnaji at Ommen in Holland. August 14: Heads back to India. September 1: Arrives in Adyar. Travels to Simla and Bombay. December: Presides over International TS Convention and Home Rule League Convention in Bombay. Attends Belgaum National Congress, Gandhi presiding.
1925 Serves as General Secretary of the Indian National Convention. January 12-14: Delivers series of three prestigious Kamala Lectures at Calcutta University. Repeats one of these lectures as her first radio broadcast in Bombay. Also lectures for the first time on her Commonwealth of India Bill. July 4: Departs from Bombay. July 18: Arrives in London, hoping to present her Commonwealth of India Bill to Parliament. July: Attends garden party at Buckingham Palace and chats with the King George V and his Queen. August: Attends TS convention in Hamburg and Star Camp in Ommen (Krishnaji is in Ojai). Proposes a World University to be based in Adyar, as well as a World Religion. September-October: Queen’s Hall lectures. November 8: Departs for India. Initiates building of temples at Adyar TS headquarters, honoring the world’s religions. Installs India’s first public address system at Adyar. December: Commonwealth of India Bill gets its first reading in British Parliament. Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Theosophical Society celebrated at Adyar with 3000 delegates from all over the world. December 28: First Star Day. Krishnaji speaks as World Teacher.
1926 Tours India for theosophical, educational, and political work, laying foundation stones for various lodges. May 8: Heads back to England with Krishnaji. May 22: Arrives in London. June: Queen’s Hall Lectures on the World Teacher, Scottish Section Convention, visits Wales. July: Dutch Section Convention, July 23: Attends Star Camp at Ommen with Krishnaji. Dublin, Belfast, Manchester. August 2: Departs for America with Krishnaji, seventeen years having passed since her last visit. Welcomed in New York and Chicago. August 29: Lays foundation for new TS American Section headquarters building at Wheaton, Illinois. August 30: American Section Convention in Chicago. Begins thirty lecture tour in Minneapolis. December: Settles in Ojai, California for the winter, with Krishnaji. Does not attend International Convention in Benares.
1927 Remains in Ojai until April 20. Starts the Happy Valley Fund, intending to turn the Ojai property into a theosophical center and home for Krishnaji. May 9: Back in London. June: Queen’s Hall lectures. English Section Convention. July: Tours England, attends Scottish Section Convention. July 26: Honored at the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Malthusian Society. August 3: Attends Star Camp at Ommen. Krishnaji begins to distance himself from theosophical organizations and teachings. August 18-September 7: Gives fifty-six lectures in three weeks in twelve European countries, traveling by airplane, including conventions in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm. September 24-26: Presides over Welsh Section Convention. October 1: Turns 80 (London address: One Worker, One Supreme Server--One Life). October: Second series of Queen’s Hall lectures. October 12: Departs for India. National Home Rule League in Bombay renames itself the Commonwealth of India League. November 31: Back in Adyar. December: International Convention in Adyar.
1928 January-February: Political work in India. February: First Indian Star Camp in Benares. March 25: Proclaims the existence of a World-Mother (Rukmini Devi, wife of George S. Arundale) in addition to the World-Teacher. Establishes a new journal, The World-Mother, producing just one issue. May: Attends All-Parties Conference on a Swaraj [Home Rule] Constitution in May. June 2: Heads back to England. June 17: Arrives in London. June-July: Queen’s Hall lectures. July 6: Reelected president of the TS, which has grown to 45,000 members, worldwide. July 27-August 1: Unable to preside over European Federation Congress in Brussels, due to illness. August 10: Departs for India. October-December: Tours India for political work. December: Attends All-Parties Conference in Lucknow and National Congress in Delhi.
1929 March: Presides over the United Provinces Liberal Conference, and is elected President of the Federation. January: New India goes from a daily to a weekly for lack of funds. May 4: Arrives in London. May 16: European Federation Conference in Budapest. August 3: Attends Ommen Star Camp at which Krishnaji announces his intention to disband the Order of the Star. August 25-31: AB presides over the Fourth Theosophical World Congress in Chicago. Decides to transfer publication of The Theosophist to USA. October: Celebrates 82nd birthday in London. Returns to India from England with Krishnaji. December: Dissolves the Order of the Star at the International Convention, Adyar.
1930 January: Renames The Theosophist to The Adyar Theosophist, merging it with The Adyar Bulletin. Golden Jubilee of the Blavatsky Lodge in Bombay. March: Liquidates the Theosophical Publishing House in London, buys copyrights, reopens it as a branch of TPH in Adyar. Spring: Attends All-Parties’ Conference in Delhi. May: Departs for last visits to Europe. June 2: Arrives in England. Presides over conventions in Edinburgh, Geneva (June 27, with an address on Thought-Force), and London (July 5). Attends Ommen Star Camp. October 1: Granddaughter Sibyl Besant marries Commander Clem Lewis in London. October 2: Departs for India. Resigns in protest from the Commonwealth of India League. December: Attends International Convention in Benares for the last time.
1931 Decides to withdraw attention from political work on behalf of India. January: Resumes publication of The Theosophist under its original name. February: Presides over Boy Scout Week in Madras as Scout Commissioner for All-India, as well as an All-India Humanitarian Conference. June: Laid up on bed with a knee injury. August 11: Celebrates the Blavatsky Centenary in Adyar. December 24: Last public address, at opening of the International Convention, Adyar.
1932 July: Celebrates twenty-five years as president of the TS, in Adyar. August: Celebrates the Olcott Centenary. September: Awarded the Order of the Silver Wolf, the highest honor in the scouting movement. December: Last issue of New India. Sees Krishnaji for the last time when he comes to Adyar to lecture following the International Convention.
1933 September 20: Passes away, just before her 85th birthday, is cremated in Adyar with great ceremony. Half the ashes deposited in the Ganges, by Bhagavan Das, near the site where Madame Blavatsky’s ashes had been cast; and half in a Garden of Remembrance at Adyar.