Annie Besant

People's History Museum

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How did Annie spark a strike at a match factory? She wrote an article about the poor working conditions
Annie Besant

Annie Besant was a prominent philanthropist and champion of human freedom.

Annie was regarded in her time as unconventional and unorthodox in her views. She advocated ideas that were advanced for her time, even if they weren’t popular. Annie was known for being focused and dedicating herself to what she believed in – women’s rights, better quality of life for children and self-rule for British colonies.

Annie Besant was born in 1847 in London, into a middle class Irish family. Besant was a socialist and Fabian, who as a writer and journalist campaigned for women and worker rights. On the 23 June 1888 she published an article in her newspaper, The Link, exposing the poor working conditions at the Byrant and May match factory. The article sparked a walk out of women workers from the factory, and Besant supported these workers to set up a strike committee.

Important dates for Annie Besant

Annie was born Annie Woods in London
Annie married Frank Besant, a clergyman
Annie legally separated from her husband due to their different opinions on religion and social issues
Annie joined the National Secular Society and met Charles Bradlaugh who wrote a journal called The National Reformer
Annie joined the Fabian Society
Annie and Charles Bradlaugh were arrested for publishing a book about birth control
Annie launched The Link newspaper with William Stead
Annie wrote an article about the poor working conditions at the Bryant and May match factory in The Link newspaper
Annie Besant died in India on 20 September 1933, aged 85 years old

Did you know?

  • Annie Besant legally separated from her husband in 1873 even though divorce was frowned upon at the time
  • Annie Besant lost custody of her daughter after publicly advocating birth control
  • Annie Besant became president of the Union of Women matchmakers.