Anne Bonny from a Dutch version of Charles Johnson’s book of pirates.

Anne Bonny (c. 1697-c. 1792) was a pirate in the Caribbean. Anne is believed to have been born in County Cork Ireland, the daughter of Irish lawyer William McCormac and his servant, Mary Brennan. The most consistent date historians have for her birth is 1697. Soon after, William moved his family to Charleston, South Carolina and began to rebuild his legal career in a new country, dropping the “Mc” in his name to fit in.

In her early teens, Anne lost her mother, and took over the running of her father’s household. There are many rumours about the fiery nature of Anne when she was a teenager, including stabbing a servant and putting a man in hospital for attempting to sexually assault her. Whether these are true or not, they all add to the overall picture of Anne as a strong, ruthless woman who could take care of herself.

When she was 16 she fell in love with small time pirate James Bonny. They married soon after, but if James was hoping to claim her inheritance he was sadly mistaken, as Anne’s father disinherited her for marrying a pirate. The couple then went to New Providence, which many pirates used as a hideout. When money started becoming an issue, James began to inform on his fellow pirates to Governor Woodes Rogers. Anne was unhappy with this and left him, soon after beginning a relationship with another pirate: Captain Jack Rackham. He was not a particularly successful pirate either, and primarily targeted coastal shipping for his plunder.

When Anne became pregnant, Jack left her in Cuba to have the baby. There is no evidence of what happened to the baby, but there are several theories: Anne abandoned the baby, one of Jack’s friends took the baby and raised it as their own, or the baby died at birth. Whatever happened, soon after the birth Anne returned to Jack’s ship (the ‘Revenge‘). While she was away, there had been a new addition, another female pirate by the name Mary Read. They became good friends, and there was rumour their relationship became romantic.

In 1720 the British attached Rackham’s ship while it was anchored and the crew were all drunk. Only Anne and Mary put up a fight and they were soon overwhelmed. The crew stood trial in Port Royal, and all were found guilty of piracy and sentenced to hanging. Anne and Mary claimed to be pregnant and were spared the noose. Mary ended up in a Jamaican prison, where she died of fever not long after. It is not known what happened to Anne; one theory is that her father paid a ransom to spare her from prison. It is believed she remarried in 1782 to Joseph Burleigh, and together they had 8 children. She died in South Carolina in 1782.

You can see a fictionalised version of Anne Bonny on Black Sails.

-Danielle Triggs
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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