All About Pirate Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny was an Irish pirate that was one of the only women pirates of her time.  Considered to be one of the most famous female pirates of all time, little is known about her life. Most of the information is based on records taken from Captain Charles Johnson’s historical novel called, “A General History of the Pyrates”. Continue reading below to learn all about pirate Anne Bonny.

The Origins of Pirate Anne Bonny

Although her exact birthdate is not known, pirate Anne Bonny was likely born around the year 1700 in County Cork, Ireland. Her mother, Mary Brennan, was a servant who became pregnant by her employer, lawyer William Cormac. At a young age, Bonny’s father William Cormac decided to leave Ireland for London to get away from his wife’s family with whom he did not get along with. He decided to bring along his illegitimate daughter Anne, and dressed her as a boy. When Cormac’s wife discovered that he had brought along his illegitimate daughter and was planning to teach her to be a lawyer’s clerk, Cormac’s wife stopped giving him an allowance. As a result, Cormac decided to move to the Province of Carolina with Anne Bonny’s mother, his former servant girl Mary Brennan.  In hopes of blending in to his new life more easily, Bonny’s father gave up the “Mc” prefix of his family name. He settled in what is today Charleston, SC, and was able to save money in order to finance a townhouse to live in. Later, he was able to buy a plantation on the outskirts of town. Bonny’s mother died when she was just 12 years old, and her father became involved in the merchant business and was able to amass a substantial fortune of his own.

Anne’s Introduction into Piracy

Anne Bonny grew into an attractive young women whose bright red hair matched her fiery temper. Rumor has it she once stabbed a servant girl with a knife when she was just 13 years old!  Later on, she met a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny and quickly married him. Anne’s father did not approve of James Bonny as a husband for his daughter, so he consequently kicked Anne out of his house. Her father was quick to recognize that James Bonny was interested in taking over his new father-in-law’s estate. Bonny was blinded by love and some say she even set fire to her father’s plantation in a rage of fury. With the relationship with her father in crisis, Bonny and her new husband moved to Nassau between 1714 and 1718. Nassau on New Providence Island was a well known sanctuary for English pirates and was also known as the Republic of Pirates.  Many of the of island’s residents had received a King’s Pardon, or simply moved there in hopes of evading the authorities. Governor Woodes Rogers arrived to Nassau in the summer of 1718, and James Bonny began working as an informant for the governor. He would report any pirate activity in the area to Governor Rogers, who would later arrest the pirates.  Anne sympathized with the pirates, and her relationship with her husband began to unravel.

An Encounter with Pirate Calico Jack Rackham

As Bonny’s marriage problems worsened, she started patronizing taverns around town. During one afternoon, she met pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham, who was the captain of the pirate sloop Revenge. Anne quickly became Rackham’s lover, and Rackham was so enamored with Anne that he even offered Bonny’s husband James Bonny money in exchange for her.  However, her husband refused and Anne and Rackham were forced to flee the island together. Anne subsequently became a member of Rackham’s pirate crew and disguised herself as a man. All was going well until Anne became pregnant, and Rackam was forced to dock his pirate ship on the island of Cuba so Anne could give birth to their son. Craving the pirate life at sea she had grown to love, Anne divorced Bonny, left her newborn son in the care of extended family, and rejoined Rackham. They married at sea and continued their pirate adventures together as a married couple.  

Pirate Life At Sea

While at sea, Rackham and Bonny met another woman pirate named Mary Read who helped them recruited a new crew. Working together, the three spent several years in Jamaica where they captured many small vessels and amassed massive treasure together. Pirate Anne Bonny even took part in combat alongside the men, and was competent and effective in battle. She was even named as a “Wanted Pirate” in a circular that published in the continent’s only newspaper at the time, The Boston News-Letter. Bonny was well known as a Caribbean pirate, but she never actually commanded a ship of her own and always worked with her husband. In October 1720, a “King’s ship” under the command of Jonathan Barnet who worked for the Governor of Jamaica attacked their pirate ship.  Rackham’s pirates were too drunk to fight, but Read and Bonny fought fiercely and were able to hold off Barnet’s troops for a short time before they were also taken as prisoners.

The Mysterious End of Anne’s Life

Once captured, Rackham and his crew were taken to Jamaica where they were convicted and sentenced by Governor Lawes to be hanged. However, both Read and Bonny begged for mercy since they were both pregnant. The two women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. It is believed that Anne stayed in prison until she gave birth, and was later released amid mystery.  Since there is no historical evidence surrounding Bonny’s release or possible execution, her last days remain quite the mystery. Some believe she possibly reconciled with her father, or even returned back to her first husband. Others think she may have taken on a completely new identity and continued her pirate ways on the open sea once again. And so ends the life of pirate Anne Bonny.