Anne Bonny, known by many as ruthless sailor, mercilles raider and woman who spread fear in the Caribbean, is indeed one of the most famous women pirates in history. Although the reasons why she chose this way of life remain unknown, some say it was the need to change the face of the world ruled by men in those days. In that period of time when women had to live in a submissive way, Anne Bonny proved herself as a strong-minded, fearless woman.
Historical facts about Anne Bonny’s life are incomplete and the precise date of her birth cannot be determined but it is believed that she was born between 1697 and 1700 in County Cork, Ireland. She was an illegitimate daughter of William Cormac, a lawyer who was then married and his maid Mary Brennen. After his wife discovered the affair and made it public they had to leave Ireland and decided to run off to America. The family settled in Charleston, South Carolina and after William began his legal practice again, they were able to buy a plantation of their own and soon were admitted in the upper class of society.
Anne Bonny lost her mother when she was a teenager and was forced by that situation to take care of the house which certainly shaped her as an independent woman. Although her father wanted for Anne to marry a man chosen by him and live on plantation for the rest of her life, she was drawn to different things and wanted adventure. She was interested in pirates and stories she heard from a port not far away, Charleston port. There she met and at the age of 16 married a captain James Bonny. According to legend Bonny wanted to get his hands on Cormac’s plantation but he quickly disinherited Anne Bonny which led her to start a fire on her family estate as an act of revenge. The married couple went to New Providence (today Nassau), Bahamas where Anne Bonny got to know all the local pirates, for this place was called “a pirate’s paradise”. Soon Anne was tired of playing her role as an obedient wife and got bored of waiting James to come home from the sea so when she met a handsome pirate Jack, Calico Jack Rackham
who offered her a life full of adventure she didn’t think twice. After having an affair with Rackham she decided to run away to his ship called the Revenge. She took on some man’s close for it was forbidden to have a woman aboard. For years they were successful as pirates and captured many ships with fair amount of treasure and Anne Bonny was as good in fighting the enemies as her fellow male pirates. It is believed that during this period Anne gave birth to a child on Cuba but unfortunately baby died and she returned to the ship.
As strange as it was, among Rackham’s crew was another woman, Mary Read
, brave and a true pirate like Anne Bonny and they soon became loyal friends. Fellow pirates had a high opinion of the two women for they were equal in battle, brutal and unpredictable. In 1720, Rackham's ship was attacked by Governor Lawes of Jamaica and since all of the male crew was drunk, Anne and Mary fought alone. After a while they surrendered and all of Rackham’s men were captured and sentenced to death by hanging. The two women avoided immediate hanging by ‘‘pleading their bellies’’ as they were both pregnant but Mary soon died in prison of fever. Records of Anne Bonny’s execution were never found.
There are several stories about what happened with Anne. Some say her father paid a ransom and took her back to South Carolina, or she went back to her husband; the others believe she continued a pirate’s way of life. What really happened will remain a mystery but one thing is certain: Anne Bonny deserves to be remembered as a fierce, independent and brave woman pirate, hero for some while a brutal sailor for others.