Anne Bonny
(1697 - 1720?)

Clara Paget
as Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny was born Anne Cormac in County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of a servant woman, Mary Brennan, and her employer, lawyer William Cormac, whose cunning wife soon discovered the affair. Fleeing the scandal, William Cormac, Mary Brennan, and young Anne sailed across the Atlantic, to settle in Charleston, S.C.

Bored with life on her father's plantation, Anne was drawn to a life of adventure. Pirates frequented Charleston, and before Anne was out of her teens she had married James Bonny, a renegade seaman and sometimes pirate. Apparently, James planned to steal William Cormac's land through the marriage, and Anne's father disowned her. Legend has it that in retaliation, Anne Bonny burned the plantation.

The couple fled to the pirate haven of New Providence, in what is now Nassau. James proved a coward and a traitor, becoming a paid snitch for the governor. Anne Bonny distanced herself from him, preferring the company of the island's notorious pirates and the women and men who loved them. She soon became romantically involved with the dashing pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham (nicknamed for his loud striped pants), who had just commandeered a ship full of liquor from his former boss, pirate captain Charles Vane.

Anne Bonny

When James Bonny objected to the affair, he abducted Anne, brought her naked before the governor and charged her with the felony of deserting him—Anne was considered to be stolen property. Calico Jack suggested instead putting Anne Bonny up for sale to the highest bidder, a 'kinder' legal practice for divorce at the time. Despite Jack's rather less-than-romantic proposal, as well as a court order James got forbidding Jack and Anne to see each other, Anne ran away with Calico Jack, joining his ship's crew, apparently disguised as a man.

Anne Bonny proved a daring and deadly fighter, using a sword and pistols. There are many tales of her violent temper, beginning with her alleged stabbing murder of an English serving-maid while Anne was a teen on her father's plantation. Supposedly, while on shore in New Providence she became such an expert fencer and troublemaker that she publicly stripped her fencing instructor with her sword, and that she severely beat a man with a chair for making a pass at her.

Calico Jack

However, it is her exploits at sea that gained Anne Bonny the most notoriety. She not only raided with Calico Jack, but also Jack's lieutenant, with whom she developed a mutual attraction. 'He' turned out to be none other than Mary Read. Eventually, both were known as bloodthirsty, daring female pirates, swinging their blades and boarding ships, fighting with even more courage than the men—as they proved in their final battle.

Some called Anne Bonny a feminist who chose piracy as a way of rebelling against a male-dominated world; others portray her as a tomboy who never grew up. Whatever her

The flag Jack Rackham,
Anne Bonny and Mary Read
raided under

motives, in deed and daring Anne Bonny was a plunderer, cutthroat, and general menace to maritime commerce in the Caribbean. In short, most pirates probably would have considered Anne Bonny an asset to their trade. In 1720, a former pirate turned pirate-hunter, Captain Barnet, attacked Calico Jack's ship. Rackham and almost all the pirates were drunk, and the cannon fire was so thick the men hid below decks. Anne Bonny and Mary Read stood their ground, fighting furiously.

Outraged by the men's cowardice, Anne is said to have shouted, "If there's a man among ye, ye'll come out and fight like the men ye are thought to be." When this got no response, Anne Bonny and Mary Read shot the male pirates, killing one and wounding several, including Jack Rackham. But despite Anne and Mary's ferocity, the pirates were captured. All hanged except for Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who plead their bellies, claiming to be pregnant because while the ever-'chivalrous' laws of the time gave women no rights whatsoever, it was illegal to execute a pregnant woman. After the trial, Anne Bonny disappears from the historical record.