Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny from a Dutch version of Charles Johnson's book of pirates.
Born Unknown, c. 1700
Kinsale, Ireland
Disappeared Port Royal, Jamaica
Died Unknown (possibly 22 April 1782)
Charleston, South Carolina

Piratical career

Nickname Anney
Type Pirate
Allegiance None
Years active 1718–October 1720
Base of operations Caribbean

Anne Bonny (c. 1700 c. 1782)[1] was an Irish woman who became a famous pirate, operating in the Caribbean.[2] What little is known of her life comes largely from Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates.

Early life

Anne Bonny was born around 1690. Her birth name was Anne McCormac, and her birthplace was Cork, Ireland. She was the daughter of servant woman Mary Brennan and Brennan's employer, lawyer William McCormac. Official records and contemporary letters dealing with her life are scarce and most modern knowledge stems from Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pirates (a collection of pirate biographies, the first edition accurate, the second much embellished).[3][4]

Anne's father William McCormac first moved to London to get away from his wife's family, and he began dressing his daughter as a boy and calling her "Andy". When discovered, McCormac moved to the Carolinas, taking along his former serving girl, the mother of Anne. Anne's father dropped the "Mc" from their Irish name to more easily blend into the Charles Town citizenry. At first the family had a rough start in their new home, but Cormac's knowledge of law and ability to buy and sell goods soon financed a townhouse and eventually a plantation just out of town. Anne's mother died when Anne was 12. Her father attempted to establish himself as an attorney, but did not do well. Eventually, he joined the more profitable merchant business and accumulated a substantial fortune.[5]

It is recorded that Anne had red hair and was considered a "good catch", but may have had a fiery temper; at age 13, she supposedly stabbed a servant girl with a table knife.[4] She married a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny.[6] James hoped to win possession of his father-in-law's estate, but Anne was disowned by her father.

There is a story that Bonny set fire to her father's plantation in retaliation; but no evidence exists in support. However, it is known that, some time between 1714 and 1718, she and James Bonny moved to Nassau, on New Providence Island, known as a sanctuary for English pirates called the Republic of Pirates.[7] Many inhabitants received a King's Pardon or otherwise evaded the law. It is also recorded that, after the arrival of Governor Woodes Rogers in the summer of 1718, James Bonny became an informant for the governor.[8]

Rackham's partner

While in the Bahamas, Bonny began mingling with pirates in the local taverns. She met John "Calico Jack" Rackham, captain of the pirate sloop Revenge, and Rackham became her lover. They had a son in Cuba. Many different theories state that he was left with his family or simply abandoned. Bonny rejoined Rackham and continued the pirate life, having divorced her husband and marrying Rackham while at sea. Bonny, Rackham, and Mary Read stole the ship William, then at anchor in Nassau harbour, and put out to sea.[9] Rackham and the two women recruited a new crew. Their crew spent years in Jamaica and the surrounding area.[10] Over the next several months, they enjoyed success, capturing many, albeit smaller, vessels and bringing in abundant treasure.

Bonny took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates. Governor Rogers had named her in a "Wanted Pirates" circular published in the continent's only newspaper, The Boston News-Letter.[8] Although Bonny was historically renowned as a Caribbean pirate, she never commanded a ship of her own.

Capture and imprisonment

In October 1720, Rackham and his crew were attacked by a "King's ship", a sloop captained by Jonathan Barnet under a commission from Nicholas Lawes, Governor of Jamaica. Most of Rackham's pirates put up little resistance as many of them were too drunk to fight. However, Read and Bonny fought fiercely and managed to hold off Barnet's troops for a short time. Rackham and his crew were taken to Jamaica, where they were convicted and sentenced by Governor Lawes to be hanged.[11] According to Johnson, Bonny's last words to the imprisoned Rackham were: "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog." [12]

After being sentenced, Read and Bonny both "pleaded their bellies": asking for mercy because they were pregnant.[13] In accordance with English common law, both women received a temporary stay of execution until they gave birth. Read died in prison, most likely from a fever from childbirth.[8]


There is no historical record of Bonny's release or of her execution. This has fed speculation that her father ransomed her, that she might have returned to her husband, or even that she resumed a life of piracy under a new identity.[14] Some evidence suggests that Anne's father bought her freedom from Jamaican Governor Lawes and married her off to a Jamaican high standard commissioner, where she changed her name to Annabele and lived her days out, having 8 children and dying at age 88, outliving her husband.

In popular culture


  1. Christopher Minster. "Biography of Pirate Anne Bonny". Education. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
  2. Carlova (1964)
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  4. 1 2 Meltzer (2001)
  5. Johnson (1725)
  6. Lorimer (2002), pg. 47
  7. Sharp (2002)
  8. 1 2 3 Woodard, Colin (2007). The Republic of Pirates. Harcourt, Inc. pp. 139, 316–318. ISBN 978-0-15-603462-3.
  9. Also in treasure island bitches Druett, Joan (2000). She Captains : Heroines and Hellions of the Sea. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684856905.
  10. Canfield, Rob (2001). "Something's Mizzen: Anne Bonny, Mary Read, "Polly", and Female Counter-Roles on the Imperialist Stage". South Atlantic Review: 50.
  11. Zettle, LuAnn. "Anne Bonny The Last Pirate".
  12. "Ann Bonny and Mary Read's Trial". Pirate Documents. Retrieved 14 March 2014.
  13. Yolen, Jane; Shannon, David (1995). The Ballad of the Pirate Queens. San Diego: Harcourt Brace. pp. 23–24.
  14. Carmichael, Sherman (2011). Forgotten Tales of South Carolina. The History Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-60949-232-8.




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