Anne Bonney, Caribbean Terror
Anne Bonny (1697 – 1781) was one of history most famous female pirates. Her fame even rubbed off on others, making otherwise forgettable historical figures famous as well. Best example of that being Anne’s lover, John Rackham, better known as Calico Jack (1682 – 1720). He is one of the best known pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy, but not because he was much good at being a pirate. Instead, much of his fame is owed to the fact that his crew included two of history’s most famous female pirates, Anne Bonny and her friend Mary Read.
Anne Bonny was born in Ireland, the illegitimate daughter of a lawyer and his housemaid. When she was a child, her father moved to London, and took Anne with him. But to conceal her from his wife, who supported him financially, Anne’s father dressed her as a boy, and called her “Andy”. His wife found out, however, and cut off his allowance. So he moved to South Carolina, taking Anne with him, and there, he eventually prospered as a businessman.
Anne was problem child from early on, and at age 13, she stabbed a servant with a knife. Soon thereafter, she met and married a scheming sailor and minor pirate, who had an eye on her father’s estate. Anne’s father responded by kicking her out of his house and disowning her. In retaliation, she reportedly set fire to her father’s plantation. She and her husband eventually moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, a notorious pirate haven at the time. There, Anne’s husband made money snitching on the pirates to the British authorities, to his wife’s disapproval.
While in Nassau, Anne met the pirate Calico Jack Rackham, became his lover, and left her husband to go pirating with her new beau. She disguised herself as a man aboard ship, with only Rackham and her friend Mary Read knowing the truth. She performed all the duties of the male crew members, and earned a reputation as a brave fighter, but the truth about her gender became evident when she got pregnant. She was landed on Cuba, where she gave birth to a son, before rejoining Rackham and Mary Read.
The trio resumed their piracy, and specialized in plundering small vessels engaged in coastal trade, but fell upon larger ships when the opportunity presented itself. In October of 1720, a pirate hunter chanced upon their ship at anchor. Rackham and most of his men were too drunk to fight, and the only resistance was offered by Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who fought ferociously before they were finally subdued. The captured pirates were taken to Jamaica, where they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang.
Anne was spared the noose after “pleading her belly” – she was pregnant, and under English common law, that entitled her to a stay of execution until she gave birth. She had little sympathy for her lover when he grew maudlin while bidding her goodbye before his execution, and reportedly sneered: “if you had fought like a man, you would not hang now like a dog!” After giving birth, Anne Bonny disappears from history. She was not executed, but what her ultimate fate was, is unknown.