Josephine Ransom

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Josephine Ransom

Josephine Ransom was a lecturer and leader in the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India. She is best known as General Secretary of the Australian, South African, and English Sections, and left an important legacy in her book A Short History of The Theosophical Society.

Early years

She was born Josephine Maria Davies on March 22, 1879 in Armidale, Australia.

She went to India as a young girl, drawn there by a deep affinity. She lived for a time in an Indian household in a period when such things were not done as easily and naturally as today. During that time she delved deeply into Eastern, and particularly Hindu, philosophy, becoming no mean Sanskrit scholar.[1]

Work in Theosophy and education

Mrs. Ransom was admitted as a Fellow of the Theosophical Society based in Adyar, Chennai, India on November 23, 1897. She became engaged in educational work among the Buddhists in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Benares from 1904-06.

On March 30, 1907, she married Captain Sidney Ransom in London.[2] She and her husband served as lecturers in England and on the headquarters staff in Adyar. After her Australian lecture tour of 1912, she performed educational work in England, founding the Harrogate T. S. Training Centre and the Britain and India Society.[3]

For a time she served as manager of the Theosophical Publishing House in Adyar. From 1924-1926, she was General Secretary of the Australian Section; of the South African Section from 1926-1927; and then of the English Section from 1933-1936. She was also an executive of the European Federation, and served on the World Congress Committee in 1936.[4]

Editing Britain and India

In 1920, Mrs. Ransom and her husband edited a journal based in London:

Britain and India began in January 1920 as a monthly journal in order to promote understanding and unity between the two countries. It was edited by the Australian Theosophist, Mrs Josephine Ransom, in London, and was the organ of the Britain and India Association that began at the same time. The journal included articles ranging from political statements, reviews of books, interviews with key Indian individuals (including Rabindranath Tagore and Sarojini Naidu) to accounts of events in London for British and Indian audiences and reprints of speeches given by Indians in London halls (such as by C. R. Jinarajadasa and Yusuf Ali).

By August 1920, the journal had to be produced bi-monthly, and it was discontinued in December 1920 due to financial constraints. The journal was particularly concerned with responding to the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre in Amritsar and was keen to make sure the event was not forgotten in its readers' minds. It also promoted women's associations and education for Indian women in Britain. The journal provided regular accounts of the performances put on by Kedar Nath Das Gupta's Union of the East and West. On 30 October 1920, the association hosted a conference on India in London.[5]


Mrs. Ransom was much in demand as a lecturer, and toured in Australia, 1912; in India, 1936-1937; and several times in the United States. When she toured the U. S. in 1931-1932, she lectured in 36 cities in 18 states.[6] It was written that "her lectures were always brilliant and provocative, her insight into Hinduism, in particular, profound."[7]

In London she presented two Blavatsky Lectures, "The Occult Teachings of the Christ" in 1933 and "The Direction of The Theosophical Society by Masters of Wisdom" in 1942.

Later years

She became International Vice-President in 1960, taking over from Sidney A. Cook, but died before she had been in office long. Her death on December 2 followed an accident and a period of four months in which she lay unconscious. She left a daughter, Dr. Shila Ransom, and sister Miss Annie Davies.[8] James S. Perkins took her place as Vice-President.


Mrs. Ransom served as editor of Theosophy in Australia from May, 1921 to June, 1927, working in Sydney, Australia. In addition, she wrote numerous articles for Theosophical periodicals, including The Theosophist, The Theosophical Messenger, The Adyar Bulletin, and World Theosophy. The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 140 articles under the name Josephine Ransom and five under the name J Ransom, although she wrote many more anonymously for Theosophy in Australia.

She also wrote these books and pamphlets, in chronological order:

  • Indian Tales of Love and Beauty. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophy Office, 1912.
  • Schools of Tomorrow in England. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1919. Available at Open Library and Internet Archive..
  • Our Philosophy of Education: [a lecture delivered before the theosophical fraternity in education, February, 1919.]. London: Theosophical Fraternity in Education, 1919. Pamphlet.
  • Irish Tales of Love and Beauty. London : Arthur H. Stockwell, 1924.
  • Madame Blavatsky as Occultist. London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1931.
  • Racial problems in South Africa. Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publ. House, 1932. Pamphlet.
  • Occult Teachings of the Christ According to The Secret Doctrine. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House, 1933.
  • Studies in the Secret Doctrine: Studies with Students at Olcott Sessions, Summer, 1932. Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Press, 1934.
  • Self-Realization Through Yoga and Mysticism. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1936.
  • A Short History of The Theosophical Society. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House, 1938. The importance of this work is in its extensive use of archival materials in addition to such printed sources as Old Diary Leaves and The Golden Book of Theosophy.Available online at
  • The Direction of The Theosophical Society by Masters of Wisdom. London, 1942. Published lecture.
  • Years of Grandeur: Memories of Annie Besant. With Sidney Ransom. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1949. From a presentation with Sidney Ransom. "Delivered at the headquarters of The Theosophical Society, London, on October 1, 1949."
  • The Key to Theosophy by H. P. Blavatsky. London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1948. Abridged and edited by Josephine Ransom.
  • The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Book of the Theosophical Society: a Short History of the Society's Growth from 1926-1950. Adyar, India: Theosopohical Pub. House, 1950. Available at this website.
  • Om Meditation. Stockholm: Sv. teosof. bokförl., Högfeldt), 1964. Pamphlet. Swedish translation.


  1. ""Josephine Ransom," The Theosophical Journal 2.1 (Jan-Feb 1961), 12.
  2. The International Theosophical Year Book 1938 (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938): 210.
  3. The International Theosophical Year Book 1938: 210.
  4. The International Theosophical Year Book 1938: 210.
  5. "Britain and India" at The Open University's website on "Making Britain: Discover how South Asians shaped the nation, 1870-1950." Accessed November 3, 2016.
  6. "My Experience with Americans as Theosophists," The Theosophical Messenger 20.7 (July, 1932), 145.
  7. ""Josephine Ransom," The Theosophical Journal 2.1 (Jan-Feb 1961), 12.
  8. ""Josephine Ransom," The Theosophical Journal 2.1 (Jan-Feb 1961), 12.