Annie Besant nee Wood (1847-1933) was a British social activist, theosophist and campaigner. In 1867 she married Rev Frank Besant, but subsequently underwent a crisis of faith and eventually became a free-thinker, with the result that she left her husband in 1874 and moved to London. There she met Charles Bradlaugh, the president of the National Secular Society, who encouraged her in public speaking and also employed her to write for the free-thought newspaper, the National Reformer. Besant’s career developed meteorically from there. She later became involved in the birth control movement, and in the 1880s Edward Aveling introduced her to the socialist movement. Later still she became involved in theosophy and in 1893 travelled to India where she called for Indian people to throw off British rule. She worked for educational reform in India and also campaigned for Indian independence through the various newspapers she controlled.
For further information see:
Annie Besant (1885) Autobiographical Sketches London: Freethought Publishing Company
Annie Besant (1908) Annie Besant: An Autobiography London: T. Fisher Unwin
Arthur Nethercot (1961) The First Five Lives of Annie Besant London: Rupert Hart-Davis
Arthur Nethercot (1963) The Last Four Lives of Annie Besant London: Rupert Hart-Davis
Anne Taylor (1992) Annie Besant: A Biography Oxford: Oxford University Press
Anne Taylor (2004) ‘Besant, Annie (1847-1933)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/30735