The Life and Times of Anne Bonny
Anne Bonny is historically recognized as a famous Irish American Pirate. She lived from March 8th, 1700 until somewhere around 1782. She is believed to have passed away on April 25th, 1782 but no one knows for certain. She toiled away in the Caribbean for years and this is where she made a name for herself.
The Early Stages
When it comes to specific, proven, historical facts there is not much when it comes to Anne Bonny. Most of what is known is derived from the book “A General History of the Pyrates”, which was written by Captain Charles Johnson. There is not much official evidence pertaining to her life but records obtained from her descendents suggest she was born in 1698 in County Cork, Ireland. Her parents are believed to be attorney William Cormac and his servant, whose name was either Mary or Peg Brennan. When neighbors and his wife found out about the affair Cormac took his servant and new born daughter to South Carolina and ended up amassing quite a fortune.
A Pirate Affair
Early records relating to the life of Anne Bonny suggest that she was rather intelligent and beautiful yet she had a very short temper. There are rumors that she stabbed a servant girl with a table knife at the age of 13. This is another suspected happening but once again there is no concrete proof. When Bonny was 16 she wed a lesser-known pirate by the name of James Bonny. James Bonny married Anne in hopes to make claim to her father’s fabulous fortune but once the marriage was announced Carmoc disowned Anne. There is a legend that Anne set fire to her father’s abundant plantation after this event. Anne and James then moved to New Providence, Bahamas which is now referred to as Nassau. At the time, New Providence was an international hub for pirates and James became an informant for the current governor, Woodes Rogers.
After the move to the Bahamas, Anne become more and more incorporated and consumed by the pirate lifestyle and even ended up having an affair with a pirate by the name of John “Calico Jack” Rackham. While there were no severe penalties for pirate behavior in the Bahamas, James drug Anne to the governor and demanded that she be condemned for her sins of adultery. Rackham tried to purchase Anne in order to save her from the flogging that she was sentenced to, but she refused to be bought and paid for like livestock. Before the flogging could take place, Rackham and Anne were able to escape and began living together as pirates.
The Pirate Life
In order to be accepted as one of Rackham’s pirate crew members, Anne disguised herself as a man and came aboard the deck of his boat, “The Revenge.” She worked just as hard as her male counterparts and even fought right along side them in order to obtain several prizes of the seas. After some time, she gained the respect of her crewmates thanks to her obvious ability when it came to combat.
Over the years Rackham and Bonny were able to obtain a number of ships and treasures. Years later when a fellow crewmate discovered her secret identity as a female, she stabbed him directly in the heart. While Bonny is thought to be one of the most successful pirates in history, she was never capable of commanding her own ship and is best remembered as one of the few female pirates in history.
More than One Female Aboard
After some time, Anne Bonny came to realize that she was not the only female on board disguising as a male pirate. One day she walked in on Mary Read undressing and realized they shared the same secret. Read joined the crew after a raid of another ship. Both Read and Bonny agreed to keep the secret between them and there are even rumors that the two had a romantic connection. This of course cannot be proven as well but is mention in Captain Johnson’s book.
However, Read was unable to keep her identity a secret for long after Rackham became suspicious of the relationship between her and Bonny. When Rackham approached Bonny and questioned her, it was revealed that Read was in fact a woman. Even still, she was accepted by the crew and was allowed to remain a faithful member of their team.
After years of success, Rackham’s ship and crew were attacked by a boat guided by Jonathan Barnet. Barnet was working for the governor of Jamaica. At the time most of Rackham’s crew was inebriated and thus the fight did not last for long. Rackham and Bonny were the only two that seemed to be sober at the time and fought bitterly for as long as they could. Eventually the boat was seized and Bonny and Rackham were both sentenced to be hanged in October of 1720. At the time of sentencing both Mary Read and Anne Bonny pleaded that they were pregnant and thus should be saved from the hanging. Both women were given a reprieve until after the pregnancy, but Read eventually died in prison while giving birth.
The conclusion of Anne Bonny’s story has a less than simple ending. There is in fact no record of her being released or executed. There is some speculation that her father paid the ransom for her release or that she was able to escape with Rackham to continue her life as a pirate. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography claims that Bonny’s descendants confirm that her father did establish her release and that she later moved back to South Carolina and gave birth to a son. It is said that she later married a local man by the name of Joseph Burleigh and gave birth to eight healthy children. Her descendants claim that she left her life as a pirate behind and died respectably on April 25th, 1782. Whether this is indeed the true ending for the life of storied pirate Anne Bonny will seemingly remain a secret forever.