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Annie Wood Besant (1847-1933) was a problematic and notorious figure in Victorian England, questioning and then breaking from the Anglican Church to become an atheist, women's rights advocate, and Freethinker. As editor of her own journal, Our Corner, she responded to inquiries about her life experiences by serializing her life story, which was published in 1885. After providing a vivid account of her trial, along with Charles Bradlaugh, for the right to publish birth control literature, Besant recounts her heartbreaking trial for custody of her daughter.
With a critical and historical introduction by Carol Hanbery MacKay, this Broadview Edition includes comparative passages from An Autobiography, written in 1893 after Besant's conversion to Theosophy. Contemporary reviews, excerpts from publications about issues such as Socialism and trade unionism, and additional examples of Besant's writing about secularism and labour reform are also included.
"This important edition brings Annie Besant's first autobiographical work back into print. Written before her conversion to Theosophy, Autobiographical Sketches details Besant's remarkable spiritual and political transformation from wife of a Christian clergyman to celebrated campaigner for Freethought, secularism, women's rights, and birth control. Carol Hanbery MacKay's splendid introduction and supplementary materials offer an illuminating context for students and scholars alike. Altogether, the volume is a major contribution to the literature of feminism, autobiography, religion, and radical politics." - Elizabeth Miller, University of California Davis
"'Naughty Annie' (as the press called her) has been ill served by biographers and critics. This meticulous edition of her fascinating first foray into autobiography–before her extraordinary but quintessentially Victorian passage from secularism and Socialism to Theosophy and India–not only allows her to speak again for herself as a woman and a public figure, but, through the rich array of reviews, speeches, essays, and extended passages from her later Autobiography, also allows us to understand her against the full backdrop of her life and the times she helped to change." - Joss Marsh, University of Indiana
Carol Hanbery MacKay is Distinguished Teaching Professor of English and Affiliate of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.
Academics please note that this is a title classified as having a restricted allocation of complimentary copies. While the availability of bound complimentary copies is restricted to desk copies only, electronic complimentary copies are readily available for those professors wishing to consider this title for possible course adoption. Should you choose to adopt the book after viewing an electronic copy we will be happy to provide a bound desk copy.
Table of Contents: [Back to Top]
Introduction: Annie Besant's First Foray into Self-Writing
Annie Besant: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Text
Autobiographical Sketches (1885)
Appendix A: Publication of Autobiographical Sketches (1884-85) and Aftermath
- Reviews of Autobiographical Sketches
- From Annie Besant, Why I Don't Believe in God (1887)
- From Annie Besant, Why I Became a Theosophist (1889)
- From Annie Besant, 1875 to 1891: A Fragment of Autobiography (1891)
Appendix B: Publication of An Autobiography (1893) and Critical Response
- Preface to An Autobiography (1893)
- Selected parallel passages and entries from new sections
- Reviews of An Autobiography
- Review essay by W.E. Gladstone, Annie Besant's reply, and letter from Gladstone to Digby Besant
Appendix C: Contemporary Issues
- Charles Knowlton, "Philosophical Proem," The Fruits of Philosophy: An Essay on the Population Question (1832; rev. ed. 1877)
- From The Married Woman's Property Acts (1870; 1882) and Amendment Acts (1874; 1893)
- Socialism: For and Against, A Written Debate between Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, Our Corner 9 (1887)
- Sidney and Beatrice Webb, 'Preface," The History of Trade Unionism (1894)
Appendix D: Concurrent Issues as Seen by Annie Besant
- Annie Besant, The Political Status of Women (1874)
- From The Secular Song and Hymn Book (1875) and from "Two Secular Burial Services" (1875)
- Annie Besant, "Landlords,Tenant Farmers, and Laborers," National Reformer (1877)
- From Annie Besant, The Law of Population (1877) and Theosophy and the Law of Population (1896)
Academics teaching relevant courses may request examination copies of titles to consider for text adoption. We ask that you limit your examination copy requests to three or fewer at a time; if you are not confident that you will adopt the book, please help us keep costs down by ordering it instead. If in the future you do decide to assign as a course text a book you have previously ordered personally, Broadview Press will be happy to refund your money.
2009 • 376pp • Paperback • 9781551114484 / 1551114488