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Bailey, Alice Anne La Trobe-Bateman (16 June 1880–15 December 1949), founder of a spiritual movement growing out of the Theosophical tradition, was born in Manchester, England, the daughter of Frederic Foster La Trobe-Bateman, a prosperous engineer and member of a socially prominent family, and Alice Hollinshead. She spent major parts of her early life in Canada and Switzerland because of her father’s work. Her mother died when she was six; her father, when she was nine; thereafter she lived on the estate of her grandfather John Frederic La Trobe-Bateman, a wealthy and very well known engineer. She was unhappy as a child, despite mystical tendencies. Her religious upbringing was in the conservative evangelical wing of the Church of England. After finishing school at eighteen, she worked from 1899 to 1907 for the Young Women’s Christian Association in a ministry to British troops, which included delivering highly evangelical sermons, first in Ireland and then in India. She met her future husband, Walter Evans, then a soldier, in India. They were married in 1907 in Britain. She then went with him to the United States, where he studied for the Episcopal priesthood in Cincinnati. After his ordination in 1910, they moved to Reedley, California, where he was given a church. They had three daughters. The marriage was not a success, however, and in 1915 they separated, divorcing in 1919. Alice retained custody of the children....

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Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna (31 July 1831–08 May 1891), major occult writer and cofounder of the Theosophical Society, was born Helena de Hahn in Ekaterinoslav (later Dnepropetrovsk) in the Ukraine, the daughter of Colonel Peter Hahn and Helena Pavlovna Fadeev. Both parents were of aristocratic stock. Her father, of German descent, was an artillery officer, and her mother was a popular novelist whose stories inevitably turned on the sufferings of women at the hands of callous men. Much of Helena’s childhood was spent on the estates of her maternal grandfather, a provincial governor. Helena was a strong-willed, imaginative child who would sometimes hide from household members for hours and on other occasions make up exceedingly elaborate stories....

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Judge, William Quan (13 April 1851–21 March 1896), Theosophist, was born in Dublin, Ireland, the son of Frederick H. Judge (occupation unknown) and Alice Mary Quan. In 1864 his father, now a widower, emigrated with his children to the United States, eventually settling in Brooklyn. Although the Judges faced hard times as immigrants, William was able to finish his schooling before settling into employment as a law clerk in New York City. Learning law on the job, he was admitted to the State Bar of New York in 1872, the same year he became a naturalized citizen. Two years later he married Ella M. Smith. Living in Brooklyn, the couple had a daughter who died of diphtheria in infancy....

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Krishnamurti, Jiddu (11 May 1895–17 February 1986), celebrated spiritual teacher, was born in the southern Indian town of Madanapalle in what is now the state of Andhra Pradesh, the son of a brahmin, Jiddu Naraniah, and Sanjeevamma Jiddu. His father was a civil servant and dedicated Theosophist, who after his retirement moved his family to the headquarters estate of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, near Madras. The Theosophical Society, established by ...

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Henry Steel Olcott Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-105248).

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Olcott, Henry Steel (02 August 1832–17 February 1907), cofounder with Helena Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society and an important Western advocate of Buddhism, cofounder with Helena Blavatsky of the Theosophical Society and an important Western advocate of Buddhism, was born in Orange, New Jersey, the son of Henry Wyckoff Olcott, a businessman, and Emily Steel. He was raised in New York City. At sixteen, after the failure of his father’s business, he worked on an uncle’s farm in Ohio, where he took an interest in both Spiritualism, then at the height of its vogue, and agricultural science. In 1855 Olcott opened an agricultural school in New Jersey and as its director wrote several books and articles on farming. The school failed in 1859. He was assistant agricultural editor of the ...

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Tingley, Katherine Augusta Westcott (06 July 1847–11 July 1929), founder of the utopian Point Loma Theosophical community in San Diego, California, was born in Newbury, Massachusetts, the daughter of James P. L. Westcott, a lumber merchant and later hotel keeper, and Susan Ordway Chase. Little is known of Tingley’s early life, save that she attended a Congregational church and was married twice (to Richard Henry Cook in 1867, divorced after two months, and to George W. Parent around 1880, divorced after several years) before marrying Philo Tingley in 1888. At one point she may have acted with a stock company; in any case, she had a flair for the dramatic, and drama was a strong interest of hers. She also became interested in Spiritualism....