Thursday, January 17, 2008


Anne Bonny (1698 - April 25, 1782) was an Irish pirate who plied her trade in the Caribbean. Anne Bonny, born in County Cork, Ireland, was a daughter of attorney William Cormac and his maidservant. Her mother was named either Mary or Peg Brennan. When the affair became public, Cormac, with his new wife and newborn child, left Ireland for Charleston, South Carolina, where he made a fortune and bought a large plantation.

The few records of Bonny which exist seem to reflect that she was intelligent, attractive, and quick-tempered. When she was 13, she supposedly stabbed a servant girl in the stomach with a table knife, although it is unclear whether this is fact or legend. At 16, she married a sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. James Bonny hoped to win possession of his wife's family estate, but she was disowned by her father.

According to legend, Anne Bonny started a fire on the plantation in retaliation. James Bonny then took his new bride to New Providence (modern-day Nassau), Bahamas, a pirate hub and base for many pirate operations, where he became an informant for Governor Woodes Rogers.
While in the Bahamas, Anne Bonny began mingling with pirates at the local drinking establishments, and met the pirate
John "Calico Jack" Rackham, with whom she shortly thereafter had an affair. Rackham offered to buy her from her husband in a divorce-by-purchase, but James Bonny refused. He complained to the governor, who brought her before the court, naked, and sentenced her to be flogged and to return to her legal husband. Anne Bonny and Rackham instead eloped.

Life as a pirate
She disguised herself as a man in order to join Rackham's crew aboard the Revenge.
Over the next several years, she and Rackham saw quite a few successes as pirates, capturing many ships, and bringing in an abundance of treasure. According to legend, she stabbed a fellow pirate through the heart when he discovered her gender.

Meeting Mary Read
Bonny was not to be the only female pirate on Rackham's ship. A woman by the name of
Mary Read also disguised herself as a man to join the crew, after her ship was taken during a raid. Bonny and Read became close companions to one another because both were pregnant. They met when Bonny walked in on Read undressing one day, and she discovered her secret. The two women agreed to keep this from everyone, and Bonny swore not to reveal that Read was really a woman. Read's true identity would not remain secret for long. Rackham became suspicious of Bonny's close relationship with the new sailor, and demanded an explanation. When Read confessed that she was actually a woman, Rackham allowed her to stay on as a member of his crew, eventually revealing her secret to the other crew members.

Capture and imprisonment
October 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet, who was working for the governor of Jamaica. Most of Rackham's pirates did not put up much resistance as many of them were too drunk to fight. Read and Bonny, who were sober, fought fiercely and managed to hold off Barnet's troops for a short time. After their capture, Rackham and his crew were sentenced by the Governor of Jamaica to be hanged. Jack hid while the pregnant (and recently proved) ladies dealt with a great number of captors. Bonny is reported to have chastised the imprisoned Rackham (who wanted to see her one last time) by saying, "I am sorry to see you here Jack, but if you had fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog."
After their arrest and trial, Read and Bonny both
pleaded their bellies, announcing during the sentencing phase that they were both pregnant. In accordance with English common law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. Mary Read died in prison most likely from a fever.

Disappearance from the record
There is no historical record of Bonny's release or of her execution. This has fed speculation that her father
ransomed her, that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity. Evidence provided by the descendants of Anne Bonny suggests that her father managed to secure her release from and bring her back to Charles Town, South Carolina, where she gave birth to Rackam's second child. On 21 December 1721 she married a local man, Joseph Burleigh, and they had eight children. She died in South Carolina, a respectable woman, at the age of eighty-four and was buried on 25 April 1782.