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Annie Besant (1847–1933) by Hayman Selig Mendelssohn © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Besant [née Wood], Annie (1847–1933), theosophist and politician in India, was born at 2 Fish Street Hill in the City of London on 1 October 1847, the only daughter of William Persse Wood (d. 1852), underwriter, and his wife, Emily Roche Morris (...

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Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (1831–1891), founder of theosophy, was born at Yekaterinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk), Ukraine, at midnight on 30–31 July 1831, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn (d. 1873), descended from the counts Rotenstern-Hahn of Mecklenburg, and of his wife, Helena Pavolovna Fadeev. She was a petted, wayward, invalid child whose mother, a novelist who advocated women's emancipation, died when she was small. From girlhood onwards she was a beguiling story-teller. On 7 July 1848 she married an older man, ...

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Codd, Clara Margaret (1876–1971), suffragette and theosophist, was born on 10 October 1876 at Pill House, Bishops Tawton, Barnstaple, north Devon, the eldest of ten children of Henry Frederick Codd (d. 1899) and his wife, Clara Virginia, née Botto (1853–1927). She was educated at home by governesses, and at fifteen rejected Christianity and declared herself an atheist. When she was twenty-three her father, a school inspector, died and the family moved to ...

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Florence Beatrice Farr (1860–1917) by unknown photographer, c. 1905 [with her Dolmetsch psaltery] courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

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Farr [married name Emery], Florence Beatrice [performing name Mary Lester] (1860–1917), author and mystic, was born on 7 July 1860 at Southlands, Bromley, Kent, the last of the eight children of William Farr (1807–1883), medical statistician, honorary MD, and FRS, and his second wife, ...

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Foxcroft [née Whichcote], Elizabeth (1600–1679), theosophist, was born at Stoke, Shropshire, the daughter of Christopher Whichcote of Whichcote Hall, Stoke, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Fox. Some time before 1629 she married George Foxcroft, London merchant and subsequently agent for the East India Company...

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Krishnamurti, Jiddu (1895–1986), religious teacher, was born on 11 May 1895 at Madanapalle, between Madras and Bangalore, the eighth son of Narianiah, a Telugu-speaking Brahman employed by the British as a rent-collector, and his wife and cousin, Jiddu Sanjeevama (d. 1905). When compulsorily retired, ...

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Lady Emily Lutyens (1874–1964) by F. A. Swaine, 1913 © Mary Evans Picture Library

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Lutyens [née Bulwer-Lytton], Lady Emily (1874–1964), theosophist, was born on 26 December 1874 in Paris, the third surviving child among the five children of (Edward) Robert Bulwer-Lytton, first earl of Lytton (1831–1891), a diplomatist and poet, and his wife, Edith Bulwer-Lytton (1841–1936)...

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Mead, George Robert Stow (1863–1933), theosophist and writer on gnosticism and Christian origins, was born on 22 March 1863 at 2 Montague Cottages, Albert Grove, Peckham, London, the son of Robert Mead, then a lieutenant with the Military Staff College, and his wife, ...

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Müller, (Frances) Henrietta (1845/6–1906), women's rights activist and theosophist, was born in Valparaíso, Chile, daughter of William Müller, a German emigré businessman and JP for Hertfordshire, and his wife, Maria Henrietta Müller. She grew up in Chile with little formal schooling but was evidently well-educated; she spoke six languages and travelled widely in ...

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See Sinclair, James, fourteenth earl of Caithness

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Sinnett, Alfred Percy (1840–1921), journalist and theosophist, was born on 18 January 1840, the son of Edward W. Percy Sinnett (d. 1845), journalist, and his wife, Jane, a historian and translator. Educated at London University School, Sinnett joined his father's profession in 1859 by becoming assistant sub-editor of the ...

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Isabelle de Steiger (1836–1927) by unknown photographer © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Steiger, Isabelle de [née Isabelle Lace] (1836–1927), artist and theosophist, was born at 2 Canning Street, Liverpool, on 28 February 1836, the daughter of Joshua Lace, a local solicitor. She attended Miss Hackney's day school at Liverpool and Avonbank School, Stratford upon Avon...