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-Born 1846 in Essex, England.

-Publishes her first book in 1863 (aged 17).

-1867 Anna is active for women’s rights. Also marries this year.

-1868 – studies at Lichfield Theological College. Anna writes stores and a long pamphlet on women’s suffrage.

-1870 – baptised in Roman Catholic Church to avoid duties of a clergyman’s wife.

-1872 – Anna acquires the Lady’s Own Paper in London.

-1873 – meets Florence Fenwick Miller (prominent feminist) and also Edward Maitland – a humanitarian writer and occultist.

-1874 – begins medical course.

-1875 – Theosophy Society founded in America by Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott.

-1877 – Anna active against vivisection. She receives illuminative dreams which continue for ten years. Maitland visits mediums and writes The Soul and How It Found Me – Anna makes him withdraw it from circulation.

-1878 – British Theosophical Society formed.

-1880 – Anna graduates as a doctor of medicine. Maitland makes visits to mediums and séances.

-1881 – Anna and Maitland study Hermetic works at British Museum. Anna’s thesis The Perfect Way in Diet is published. And the two deliver ‘The Perfect Way’ lectures in London.

-1883 – Anna is appointed president of the British Theosophical Society. She lectures against vivisection and for vegetarianism in Switzerland and later Scotland. She also disagrees with A.P. Sinnett over the direction of the society.

-1884 – Anna meets Helena Blavatsky in London. Anna and Maitland resign from office in the Theosophical society and form the Hermetic Society. She also tours her anti-vivisection talks in England.

-1885 – Anna and Maitland deliver Hermetic Society lectures in England. Anna also gives lecture tours.

-1888 – Anna dies 22nd Feb, aged 41. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is established. Anna’s Dreams and Dream Stories are published.

-1889 – Publication of Clothed With the Sun – Anna’s mystical illuminations.

-1896 – Maitland publishes a biography of Anna Kingsford: Her Life, Letters and Diary.[1]

When she married a theological student, she made the condition that she be free to follow her own career. She applied herself to social causes dear to her heart. During early married years she wrote on women’s rights. Her medical career was motivated by her interest in health, but also her desire for credentials for her campaign against vivisection and in the promotion of vegetarianism. Her husband supported her in studies and career, but stayed in the background. Edward Maitland became her co-worker in her causes. She obtained her medical degree in 1880, having the distinction of not performing any vivisection during her course.[2]

From 1877 onwards Anna received mystical illuminations, which formed the basis of The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ, published in 1882. This is a major work on Hermetic philosophy, also called Esoteric Christianity. Other Pilgrims on the mystical path recognised her importance and appointed her president of the British Theosophical Society in 1883. Due to factionalism, namely an ongoing dispute with Helena Blavatsky, she left the group and formed her own pivotal group – the Hermetic Society, which influenced Samuel MacGregor Mathers, a founder of the legendary occult society, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Mahatma Gandhi was impressed with her spiritual teachings, and distributed her mystical books in South Africa in the 1890s. Mary Greer called her the magical mother of the Golden Dawn. Pert describes Kingsford as a mystic on par with Meister Eckhart and William Blake. Countless theosophists, mystics and other seekers of enlightenment have found inspiration in her works. Kingsford also contributed significantly to the histories of vegetarianism and animal rights, and campaigned for dress reform.[3]

Some interesting rumours were disseminated concerning Anna Kingsford, most notably, that she killed two French vivisectors with black magic. But also that in past lives, was she Mary Magdalen, Joan of Arc and Anne Boleyn.[4]

Anna Kingsford and Annie Besant manifested dissatisfaction with a restrictive Victorian lifestyle and a certain personal restiveness that caused each in her own way to break the mould of conventional womanhood. The occult permitted women the exercise of a “masculine temperament” and provided an intellectual and spiritual outreach that were difficult to find elsewhere; a viable context in which women could explore that aspiring, questing nature while enjoying the felicities of like-minded companionship.[5] Kingsford and Besant embraced unconventional domestic arrangements, pursuing independence and fulfilment. Kingsford travelled with Maitland instead - this model of powerful women with subservient men was absent in Christian spiritualism but dominated the occult branch.[6]

Kingsford, although supporting women’s suffrage all her life, she increasingly assumed a spiritualist championing of equality in which she argued for the balance of feminine and masculine principles in men and women alike. Similarly Kingsford favoured the full development of woman’s femininity as part of the necessary spiritual development of any female incarnation on this earth.[7]


[1]Alan Pert, Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford (New South Wales: Books and Writers, 2006) vi-ix.

[2]Alan Pert, Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford (New South Wales: Books and Writers, 2006) 1.

[3]Alan Pert, Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford (New South Wales: Books and Writers, 2006) 2.

[4]Alan Pert, Red Cactus: The Life of Anna Kingsford (New South Wales: Books and Writers, 2006) 3.

[5]Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010) 89-90.

[6]Nicholas, Bromell, ‘Living in the Borderland: Three Spiritualist Lives in Late Victorian Britain’ (Michigan: Bell & Howell, 2000) 70-71.

[7]Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2010) 93. 

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