Annie Besant
Annie Besant

The theosophist and social reformer Annie Woods Besant (1847-1933) visited Australasia three times in her lifetime. On the second occasion, as the then President of the Theosophical Society, she arrived at Fremantle from London aboard the RMS Mooltan on Tuesday 26 May 1908. On the following Thursday evening, at Queen’s Hall in Perth she delivered to the Australian public the first of many lectures as well as meetings with members of the Australasian Branch of the Society over a period of nearly three months that would cover the topics of reincarnation, … and visiting many cities and towns, including Perth, Fremantle, Adelaide (June 8-15), Melbourne (June 16-30), Sydney (July 1-16), Brisbane (July 17-27), returning to Sydney (July 29-August 3) before proceeding to (New Zealand) (August 4-13) and again returning to Melbourne (August 14-15) via Hobart (arr 13 August per Maheno) and Launceston (dep 18 August per Loongana), Adelaide (August 16-20) and Fremantle on her (departing Adelaide for [Madras, India] via Fremantle to Colombo aboard the RMS Macedonia on Thursday 20 August 1908.)

For long recognised as one of the most talented women of her time, combining great virility of intellect with fearlessness of spirit, Mrs. Besant to-day rules over as large an organisation, and as many disciples as Mrs Eddy, America’s Christian Science leader. But Mrs. Besant has none of the eccentricities of dress or manner which have characterised the figure-heads of so many strange cults. When the Wimmera drew up at the Hobson-street Wharf yesterday, Mrs. Besant was standing in the midst of 70 or 80 laughing theatre girls, who are to appear during this week in “Humpty-Dumpty.” Although her home is in India, there is no silken robe. A long tweed ulster served better to keep on the biting wind. Past middle age, the Theosophist leader has a face, however, of remarkable power, possessing the brilliant eyes of a thinker who is also a mystic, silvery hair brushed straight back from the forehead, while the strong lines of the face are accentuated by a sallowness of complexion caused by Indian sun and climate.

New Zealand Herald, Volume XLV, Issue 13812, 27 July 1908, Page 5

It was during this period that Annie Besant was a passenger on the Wimmera when she voyaged from Sydney to Auckland departing on Wednesday 22 July and arriving 26 July 1908. Coincidently it was the same voyage described elsewhere in this publication that experienced severe weather and aboard, amongst others, were members of the successful Maori Rugby Team; entertainers Bert Gilbert and Harry Shine and other members of J.C. Williamson’s Pantomime Company, as well as Commodore Pethebridge.

Accompanied by members of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, conducted a brief lecturing tour of the Dominion…

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