Annette Doherty was 35 years old when she and her husband William moved to India seeking economic opportunity. William found a new job as an electrical engineer in Bombay. Annette went with him.
On November 19, 1921, William Francis Doherty was killed by a rioting mob on the streets of Bombay. His eyes were gouged out. His body was torn apart.
Annette was left a widow in a foreign land. Yet her courage was soon to be challenged even more.
Mohandas Gandhi, a popular preacher and political star, incited a race riot by his followers during a visit to India by a British overlord. Mistaking him as British, rioters killed William. To keep Annette quiet, Gandhi offered her bribes and threatened her life.
Annette was too strong to be silenced. Alone, she returned to California. Her patriotic fervor then led her to warn people about the reasons for William’s murder. In a 1929 sworn statement made to a notary public in Los Angeles County, Annette said:
“Gandhi was at the height of his popularity as a saint and political leader, and had, through his violent speeches against the British, worked his followers into a frenzy of race hatred. My husband was probably mistaken for a Britisher when he was murdered by Gandhi’s followers.”
Three days after her husband William’s murder, Gandhi, who incited the rioters, tried silencing widowed Annette to stop her revealing his involvement. First, Gandhi sent an emissary named Sarojini Naidu. Annette recounts:
“Her chief concern, however, was that the American public should never be allowed to hear of this outrage committed upon my husband; and she very frankly asked me my price for refraining from ever discussing or advertising the affair in America and from myself returning to America. Under no condition, said Mrs. Naidu, would they be willing that the American public should learn that they were killing people so promiscuously that even a white face cost a man’s life.”
Second, Gandhi met with Annette. She recounts:
“Upon this occasion of my visit with Gandhi, he repeated to me in substance what Mrs. Naidu had said, but even more emphatically stressed the point that Americans, because they were so much in sympathy with him in his political views, must on no account learn the details of the murder of my husband lest it hurt the success of his movement in America.”
Annette refused to keep quiet. She returned to America to alert her generation to Gandhi’s dark intentions to start his movement there.