The first woman we are remembering for Women’s History Month is Pirate Queen Anne Bonny.
Anne Bonny (born Anne Cormac) was born near Cork, Ireland around 1698 to William Cormac, an Irish lawyer, and his housemaid, Marry Brennan. Due to the scandal and illegitimacy of Anne’s birth, William, Marry, and Anne left Ireland and emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina.
South Carolina proved difficult for the trio. Anne’s mother died from typhoid fever shortly after they arrived in America. Anne took over the household but didn’t adjust well to the move. Known to have a hot temper and bold personality, William’s attempts at marrying Anne off to a southern gentleman failed. She was someone who forged her own way in life and wouldn’t put up with anyone’s bullshit. One story tells that one suitor tried to rape her and she beat that man so badly that he was hospitalized. (Go off Queen).
Anne, once again going against her father’s wishes, married poor, small-time pirate James Bonny. James wanted her father’s money and land but jokes on him because Anne’s father disowned her after marrying James. Between 1714-1718, the couple then went south to New Providence Island in the Caribbean.
This was known as a pirate hotbed at the time. Anne quickly became enthralled with the stories of the pirate life. She would hang around the local taverns and listen to the pirates tell tales of the high seas.
Her husband James, on the other hand, was not for the life of a pirate anymore. James flipped into becoming a pirate snitch for Governor Woodes Rogers, selling out pirates in the area. Anne, as you could expect, was not a fan of James’ job.
In her time of befriending the pirates, Anne met Captain John “Calico Jack” Rackham. The two eventually fell in love, Calico Jack bribed James to divorce so Anne and him could marry but James didn’t take the bribe. Regardless, Anne left his ass on New Providence and sailed off on the high seas with Calico Jack and his crew on a ship called “The William”.
THIS is where Anne’s fame as a ruthless bad bitch takes center stage.
Anne mostly disguised herself on the ship as a man, she could drink with them and swore as much as your average sailor. But, in the end, she gave up the charade when she became pregnant with Calico Jack’s first child. She would still dress like a man when raiding but other then that, she didn’t hide who she was from the crew.
She stepped up to any challenge, was fearless, and took no shit from anybody.
After a brief interlude where Anne stopped in Cube to have Calico Jack’s fist kid, divorce her husband, and legally marry Jack, she spent years on The William helping run the ship. From 1718-1720, Anne and The William’s crew, including another badass female pirate Mary Read (who I’ll write about another day), tore through the seas and caught heat from Pirate Hunters in the process.
Her life as a criminal came to an end on November 15th, 1720. That night, most of The William’s crew got blackout drunk after celebrating their newest conquest, leaving themselves next to useless when privateer (pirate hunter) Captain Jonathan Barnet caught The William outside Negril Point, Jamacia. Anne Bonny and Read were the only two who fought back against the privateers, every other person on the ship was too intoxicated to help and Calico Jack wanted to surrender. These two women weren’t having it though, they were going out fighting. Sadly, the ship was quickly overpowered and the crew was captured. All men on board the ship were proven guilty of piracy and sentenced to hang.
Calico Jack’s last wish was to see Anne again. Anne, being the badass she is, told him:
“If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”
Although Mary and Anne stood trial, their executions were both stayed due to them both being pregnant.
After that, Anne’s story falls off the map. She wasn’t executed or returned to the sea. According to Britannica, Anne’s father was able to bring her home to South Caroline where she remarried and gave birth to more children until her death in 1782.
I started with Anne Bonny because first of all I love history and pirates, and second of all, she is one of the coolest pirates in history. Her confidence and power are inspirational. Women, at this time, didn’t have a lot of rights and they were even seen as bad luck to most pirates. She said “fuck your superstition and misogyny” and did it anyway. Plus she’s one of the few pirates that survived and that in and of itself is awesome.
I’ll be writing about a different badass woman every day of March so check out the master post here.
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Featured Image: The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick