Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name





History, European.


Howsam, L.




From her birth in 1847 until her death in 1933, Annie Besant played many roles, was many things, and contributed to endless causes of the Victorian age: she was a wife, mother and daughter, she was a believer and a doubter, she was a liberal and a socialist, a Malthusian and a Theosophist. The question that is asked here, however, is whether or not she can be considered a feminist as well, and if so, what part did it play in her life, and to what extent did it govern her actions? Besant wrote and spoke on all the roles she played; we know about her relationships with her mother, her husband and her children, we know how her crisis of faith came about, we know why she left liberalism for socialism, and how she finally came to Theosophy, but she rarely wrote on women or feminism, and when she did, it coincided with an experience in her own life which reinforced the subordinate position of women in Victorian England. Feminism was not the guiding force in Besant's life, yet she is considered a militant feminist by almost all twentieth century historians who consider her life. This thesis also seeks to explain this historiographical vacuum, and by examining Annie Besant's writings which concern feminism closely, as well as the events in her life that coincide with their publication, also hopes to fill the same vacuum.Dept. of History, Philosophy, and Political Science. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1994 .H685. Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 33-04, page: 1131. Adviser: Leslie Howsam. Thesis (M.A.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1994.