Lesbian partner of fellow pirate Mary Read.
FULL TEXT: By 18, Anne Cormac was already a fierce-tempered, hard-drinking gal, who had a bad reputation for being rebellious. Like the time she knifed her maid to death five years earlier on her father’s Charleston, S.C. plantation.
As an adult in the early 1700s, she sought to bolster that image. The legends of her early exploits (such as beating suitors nearly to death, shooting peoples’ ears off, and humiliating her fencing teacher by publicly stripping him naked with her own sword), were only the beginning of her illustrious career as a South Seas pirate of the swarthiest caliber.
When she eloped with pirate James Bonny, who had his sights set on stealing Anne’s father’s plantation, her father disowned her. She retaliated by burning down his plantation. The couple skipped to British-controlled New Providence in the Bahamas. When Anne discovered her husband to be a traitor, coward, and a government snitch, she dumped him and sought the company of a group of pirates who – so the story goes – swung “port,” as well as “starboard.”
Escaping matrimonial tyranny, Anne met up, and sought refuge with Calico Jack Rackham, a perfumed and effeminate pirate who fancied frilly clothes and the company of women over that of masculine ruffians.
After a night of drunken debauchery with her new pirate pals, an enraged James abducted Anne, and delivered her naked to the governor. She was charged with the felonious act of marital desertion. Anne escaped, and again caught up with Jack. Disguised as a man, she officially joined his pirate crew, and set sail upon the high seas to pursue her pirate career.
Although the exploits of Anne Bonny are too numerous to mention, her first set the tone for her career. After hearing from one of her gay pirate friends, Pierre the Pansy (yes, he was real), that a fully loaded merchant ship would soon be sailing by, they set into action one of the most bizarre acts of piracy ever witnessed.
Anne, Pierre, and other thugs stole a boat and doused the sails with buckets of turtle blood. On the bow, they lashed a dressmaker’s dummy clothed like a woman, also splashed morbidly with blood. With Anne similarly bloodied, and wielding a beheading axe, the crew sailed the boat quietly under a full moon and pulled alongside the merchant ship. The merchant crew was so frightened they gave up without a fight.
In an ironic turn of fate, while on-board Calico Jack’s ship, Anne fell in love with Jack’s lieutenant “Mark” Read. Legend has it Anne burst into the lieutenant’s cabin one day, stripped off her shirt exposing her breasts, and proclaimed her love. Lieutenant Mark (actually Mary) Read, similarly removed her clothing, and both realized there wasn’t a man between them and the bunk, which they eagerly climbed into.
Soon after, the pair no longer bothered with costuming themselves as men, and felt free to murder and pillage proudly as lesbians. Not content to be second in command, Anne liberated Calico Jack’s private quarters for herself, but allowed him to save face and retain his Captain’s command.
However, one day in 1720, one Captain Barnet attacked Calico Jack’s ship in order to subdue the pirates. While Anne and Mary are said to have fought like savages against the attackers, Jack and his crew hid below decks and cowered in fear. This outraged the women, and while fighting off the enemy alone for two hours, they also began shooting their own crewmates, even wounding Calico Jack for his cowardice.
Eventually, all survivors onboard were captured and brought ashore to be hanged. Knowing they faced execution themselves, Anne and Mary begged to be spared, and lied that the two were pregnant. Since it was illegal to hang a pregnant woman at the time, their lives were spared for having “plead their bellies.”
Mary died in prison of fever, but eventually Anne was granted a reprieve. After that, the daring lesbian pirate Anne Bonny mysteriously disappeared, as if she dropped off the face of the earth. – JOHN DOOLEY
[John Dooley, “Anne Bonny: Butch Buccaneer,” The Portland Mercury (Or.), June 12, 2003]
Anne Bonny (c. 1700 – c. 1782) was an Irish woman who became a famous pirate, operating in the Caribbean. 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).
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.
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. She married a poor sailor and small-time pirate named James Bonny. 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. 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.
~ 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. Rackham and the two women recruited a new crew. Their crew spent years in Jamaica and the surrounding area. 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. 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. 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.”
After being sentenced, Read and Bonny both “pleaded their bellies”: asking for mercy because they were pregnant. 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.
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. Some evidence suggests that Anne’s father bought her freedom from Jamaican Governor Lawes and married her off to a Virginian, Joseph Buerliegh (different spellings) with whom she had eight children and lived into her 80s. There are some records that seem to tie this all together, but nothing is conclusive.