Anne Bonny: A Woman Who Would Be Pirate

Angelique NewmanStarred Page By Angelique Newman, 19th Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

A lively redheaded beauty; Anne Bonny was a wild-heart who refused to be bound by society even if it meant mayhem and murder. The life of a pirate beckoned to Anne and a pirate she would be.

The birth of Anne

Anne Bonny is believed to be born around 1697-1705 in Kinsale, Ireland. Anne is the illegitimate daughter of lawyer William Cormac and servant Mary Brennan. Upon discovering her husband's affair with their maid, Cormac's wife made life unbearable for the pair and accused the maid of stealing silverware and had her sent to prison. Fond of his illegitimate daughter, William Cormac dressed Anne in boy’s clothes so she could live with him, pretending she was in training to become a lawyer’s clerk. When his wife discovered the deception, she put an end to the allowance she had been giving him. In the end, William’s practice suffered from the scandal and he decided to go abroad to Charleston, South Carolina with the maid and their daughter Anne. There he took on a life as a successful merchant passing Mary off as his legitimate wife and Anne their daughter; life was good and he bought a plantation, obtaining status with the upper crust.

Anne lost her mother in her teen years and took on the responsibility of running her father's household. Hot-headed Anne ruled it with an iron fist and supposedly at the age of 13 she stabbed and killed a servant girl for disobeying her. Another story circulated that she hospitalized a man for several weeks after his attempt to sexually assault her.

Anne’s marriage to James Bonny

At 16 the hotheaded beauty caught the eye of James Bonny; a small-time pirate who married Anne in hopes of gaining possession of her family's estate. Her father disapproved of the match, frustrated he was unable to make a respectable lady out of his daughter, William Cormac disinherited her for her decision. Anne retaliated and reportedly set fire to the plantation.

Life in New Providence

Sometime between 1714 and 1718 Anne and James Bonny moved to New Providence a popular pirate's haven in the Bahamas. There Anne thrived, enjoying the company of notorious pirates and their ilk. James Bonny proved to be a disappointment when he became an informant for Governor Woodes Rogers, turning in her pirate friends.

The union between Anne Bonny and Pirate Calico Jack Rackam

Still Anne enjoyed her stay in New Providence and it wasn’t long before she met and became romantically involved with Calico Jack Rackam. At the time, the handsome pirate was enjoying a royal pardon from the king and abandoned his life of piracy. Enamored with Anne, he convinced the wild-heart to leave her husband and go to sea with him.

When Anne became pregnant, Calico Jack took her to Cuba where she had his child; there they left the child to be raised by friends of his and the pair returned to New Providence.

James Bonny was furious by the affair and had Anne dragged before Governor Rogers wanting her to be flogged for adultery. Calico Jack appealed and offered to buy her in a divorce-by-purchase but it wasn't to be and Anne was sentenced to be flogged. Before the sentence could be carried through, Anne and Calico Jack escaped and took to the sea. His pardon forgotten, Calico Jack Rackam took to his old ways and began pirating with Anne at his side.

Anne meets Mary Read

Blending in with the crew, Anne dressed in men’s clothes. Soon they captured a merchant ship and met up with Mary Read, a woman passing herself off as a man to work on the merchant ship. Mary joined Calico Jack's crew and Anne found herself strongly attracted to the new member. Mary quickly settled the matter and secretly revealed to Anne that she was also a woman. The two women became close friends and let Calico Jack in on the charade who at the time had been jealous of Anne’s infatuation.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were a force to be reckoned with and proved their merit when it came to using pistol and cutlass. Foul mouthed, bloodthirsty and courageous, they were most often first in battle and boarding parties.

In the summer of 1720 Rackham’s crew were well known by the authorities in New Providence and brazenly Calico Jack returned and stole the sloop William from the harbor there. The governor knew without a doubt who the culprits were and on September 5 he issued a proclamation which set out the details of the sloop and gave the names of Rackam and his crew.

The capture of Anne Bonny

In October 1720, Calico Jack sailed the sloop William westward past Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay until she came to Negril Point at the western tip of Jamaica. In the vicinity there was a heavily armed privateer sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet. Hearing a blast of gunfire, Barnet decided to investigate and spotted Rackham's ship. Surprised by Barnet's appearance, Calico Jack thought it best to flee from the powerful-looking vessel. It wasn't until ten o'clock at night that Barnet caught up with them. A battle ensued and Barnet successfully disabled and boarded the pirate's ship. Most of Rackham's men were too drunk to fight and other sources state they were asleep. The only trouble came from Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Armed with cutlasses and pistols, the women swore obscenities, trying to rally the men to fight but their efforts failed and their shipmates peacefully surrendered.

The crew was delivered to Spanish Town Jamaica and sentenced by the governor to be hanged.

It is stated that Anne Bonny's last words to Calico Jack Rackam was that she was "sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a man, he need not have been hang'd like a dog."

After the women were sentenced to hang, Anne Bonny and Mary Read revealed that they were pregnant. This news gave them a temporary stay of execution until after the birth of their children.

Shortly after the trial, Mary Read contacted a fever and she and her unborn child died in prison.

Anne’s mysterious disappearance

As for Anne Bonny, her fate remains a mystery; some speculate that her father managed to obtain her release from prison and brought her back to Charles town, South Carolina where she gave birth to Calico Jack's child and lived to reach the age of eighty as respectable lady. Still others believe she returned to a life of piracy.

One will never know what happened to Anne Bonny for there's no historical record of her release from prison or her execution.

Under the Black Flag by David Cordingly

And other sources:


Anne Bonny, Calico Jack Rackam, Charleston, Female Pirate, Female Pirates, Governor Woodes Rogers, Ireland, Mary Read, New Providence, Pirate, South Carolina

Meet the author

author avatar Angelique Newman
I'm a writer, blogger and a member of RWA. I'm interested in the environment and when I'm not writing I'm usually spending time with my family.

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author avatar Retired
19th Oct 2010 (#)

Great article! There should be a sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean, with the star being Ann Bonny:) Thanks for posting this.

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author avatar Angelique Newman
19th Oct 2010 (#)

Thanks for the comment :-) Anne sure it is a firecracker. She was a lot of fun to research.

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author avatar ppruel
20th Oct 2010 (#)

with your article you help people remembering those past events. thank you for sharing this to us. Great. And congrats for the star!

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author avatar Angelique Newman
21st Oct 2010 (#)

Thanks ppruel :-) I had a lot of fun putting the article together.

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author avatar kaylar
22nd Oct 2010 (#)

South Carolina, during those years was considered part of the West Indies, and had a vibrant Pirate Culture. Jamaica, up until the Great Earthquake was a virtual Pirate haven.

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author avatar Angelique Newman
19th Dec 2010 (#)

For sure kaylar; it was a colorful time in history.

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author avatar D in The Darling
7th Jan 2011 (#)

It has been such a long time since I last read an article that has educated me so much on a particular topic. This one has just done that! Thanks for sharing this great story!

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author avatar Angelique Newman
12th Jan 2011 (#)

Thanks dinthedarling,
I truly appreciate your kind words and for stopping by to take a look at my article :)

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author avatar Retired
18th Jan 2011 (#)

Very interesting

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author avatar Angelique Newman
19th Jan 2011 (#)

Thanks lucia :)

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author avatar Greenfaol
21st Jan 2011 (#)

fantastic article, i had never heard of Anne Boony! What a great end as well, the unknown :D Thanks for a wonderful read :D

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author avatar Angelique Newman
24th Jan 2011 (#)

Thank you Greenfaol! Anne Bonny is one of my favorite pirates; her story fascinates me. It's also hard to believe she may have lived to the age of 80 in those days--that's something in itself remarkable.

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