Anne Bonny

About Anne Bonny:

Known for: cross-dressing female pirate; lover of Mary Read, another cross-dressing pirate; mistress of Captain Jack Rackham

Dates: about 1700 - after November, 1720. By one account, she died April 25, 1782. Trial for piracy: November 28, 1720

Occupation: pirate

Also known as: Anne Bonn

More About Anne Bonny:

Anne Bonny was born in Ireland. After the scandal of having a child with his housemaid, Anne's father, William Cormac, separated from his wife and took Anne and her mother to South Carolina. He worked as a trader, eventually buying a plantation. Anne's mother died, and Cormac had his hands full with a daughter who was, by most accounts, uncontrollable. Stories have her stabbing a servant and defending herself against an attempted rape. When Anne married James Bonny, a sailor, her father disowned her. The couple went to the Bahamas, where he worked as an informant turning in pirates for a bounty.

When the governor of the Bahamas offered amnesty to any pirate who abandoned piracy, John Rackam, "Calico Jack," took advantage of the offer. Sources differ as to whether Anne was already a pirate before this time, and whether she'd met Rackam and become his mistress already. She may have given birth to a child who died soon after its birth. Anne and Rackam could not talk her husband into a divorce, so Anne Bonny and Rackam ran away in 1719, and turned (in his case, returned) to piracy.

Anne Bonny wore mostly men's clothing while on board ship. She befriended another pirate in the crew: Mary Read, who wore men's clothing. By some accounts, Mary revealed her gender when Anne tried to seduce her; they became lovers anyway.

Because he'd returned to piracy after the amnesty, Rackam won the special attention of the Bahamian governor, who issued a proclamation naming Rackam, Bonny, and Read as "Pirates and Enemies to the Crown of Great Britain." Eventually, the ship and its crew were captured. Rackam, Mary, and Anne were supposedly the only three in the crew who resisted the capture. They were tried for piracy in Jamaica.

Two weeks after Rackam and the other men in the crew were hanged for piracy, Bonny and Read stood trial, and were sentenced to be hanged. But both claimed pregnancy, which stalled their execution. Read died in prison the next month.

Anne's Fate:

There are two quite different stories of Anne's fate. In one, she simply disappears, and her fate is not known. In the other, Bonny's father bribed officials to help her escape; she is said to have returned to South Carolina, where she married Joseph Burleigh the next year, and had five children with him. In this version of her story, she died at 81 and was buried in York County, Virginia.

Her story was told in a book by Charles Johnson (most likely a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe), first published in 1724.

Background, Family:

  • Father: William Cormac, lawyer
  • Mother: Peg Brennan, housemaid
  • Illegitimate birth
  • Born in Ireland