The Life of Pirate Anne Bonny

  • Uncategorized


Most of the pirates in history have been men. Even if women wouldboard pirate ships, it was only to serve as prostitutes of to helpwith laundry and cooking. Piracy involved the use of force to stealcargo and take people captive. Most of the times it involves fightswhereby men would injure and kill others. Of all the other illegalactivities carried out, piracy did not suit women participation. ThePirates remained as outlaws who did acted contrary to the lawsgoverning various jurisdiction and upon arrest, most of them would besent to the gallows (Cordingly, 2004). Although some women took partin the piracy activities, they risked their lives, and they could notlead normal lives like ordinary. Anne Bony is one of the femalepirates who earned a place in the history of piracy due to heroutstanding courage at sea and in leading to recovering expensivecargo. The paper will detail the important events in her life as apirate and the factors that might have drawn her to like thedangerous and illegal occupation.


Anne was born in 1968 to an attorney named William Cormac. Cormac hadan affair with the housemaid and when his wife realized that therelationship between her husband and the maid was getting intense, heleft her husband. Cormac took the house maid and together they hadAnne. Cormac grew fond of the girl, but he could not take her legallyas his child since she did not belong to his legally wedded wife(Abbott, 2011). However, he made arrangements to have the girl andher mother live with him.

Anne’s later behavior of dressing like a male seems to have comefrom his father. As a young girl, Cormac dressed her in a boysclothes, and he used to tell people that the child as a son belongingto close relative. She got accustomed to a boy’s behavior mainlydue to the encouragement she got from her father (Abbott, 2011). However, as she grew up, some of the features that were inherent fora female began to show and people realized that Cormac had beenmasquerading an illegitimate daughter as a boy. He made arrangementsfor them to move Charleston to avoid embarrassment and publicreproach. He even gave up his career as an attorney and became aplanter when he went to Charleston.

In 1917, Anne’s mother died and left her a teenager. Her outgoingbehavior that’s was not so common with girls started to show duringher teenage years. As a young lady, Anne was expected to concentrateon household chores and maintain a low profile when it came tolooking for a suitor (Abbott, 2011). However, Anne was wild. On twooccasions, she committed murder while still a teenager. She killedone of the servants in their home and stabbed a suitor who tried torape her. Cormac lost touch with the girl, and he could not controlher behavior. She became a thorn in the neighborhood, and she used tocause trouble in the local taverns. People became accustomed to herbehavior, and the moral ones could not want to associate with her.Consequently, she sought solace from the less preferred social groupsincluding sailors and fishermen in the docks. Anne used to lay withdrunkards and sailors in the streets, and her behavior haddetrimental effects on her father’s business. As a planter, Cormacrelied on his business image to win customers and her daughter’sbehavior only earned him disrespect as a parent and as a responsibleplanter. After considering the loss she had brought and her disregardfor the public, Cormac disowned her.

With nowhere to go, Anne wanted to settle to a life that would suither behavior. She married a poor sailor named James Bonny, who was aseafarer moving from region to another. They migrated to NewProvidence in the Bahamas in search of a better life than the onethey had in Charleston (Abbott, 2011). In New Providence, Woodes, thegovernor was conducting a crackdown on all the pirates conductingillegal business in his jurisdiction. As a former pirate, he knewthat the only person with the capacity to turn in pirates for trialand t have experience as a seafarer. He employed Bonny as a snitchwho would earn bounties by taking the heads of the most wantedpirate. While he was busy running after pirates, Anne spent her timedrinking in the bars and interacting with sailors. At times, sheseduced them and lay with some of them.

A local pirate named John Rackam attracted her due to his love forgirlish things. Rackham considered taking her one of his crewmembers. At the time, women would not board pirate ships unless whenassisting in the general duties (Rediker, 2004). Pirates regardedthem liabilities during attacks since they could not fight back andbecause they would require protection during violent moments(Rediker, 2004). Anne played the role of Rackam’s helper andmistress. Most of the crew in Rackam’s team did not buy the idea oftheir leader bringing a woman in their ship. Most of them had opencontempt for her, to dispel their ill feelings toward her, Annewanted to prove that she could perform a man’s activities despiteher gender. She stabbed a crew member in the heart for openlydisregarding her and killed him instantly. Consequently, the othermembers gradually accepted her as part of them (Rediker, 2001).

During the raids, Anne dressed in male attires and wore pistols toher side and carried a cutlass. During the attacks, people would notrecognize her as a woman due to her attire and violent behavior. Thecapture of Mary Read by Rackam influenced Anne’s life in severalways. Read was a captured from an attacked vessel, and nobodyrealized that she was female because just like Anne, she dressed in amale attrite. Rackam used to admire her fine features that sheperceived as almost feminine (Abbott, 2011). Read knew that Anne wasRackam’s mistress and she feared her. She opened up to her that shewas female by laying her breast bare for her to see. However, shemade her vow that she would let it remain secret lest the other crewmembers got word about her gender (Rediker, 2001). Rackam becameaware of the close relationship between his mistress and Read, andsince he perceived Read to be a male, he decided to kill her (Abbott,2011). He slipped to where she slept one night ready to slit herthroat, but she let him know that she was a woman and the she openedher chest bare for him to see. Read begged him not to disclose hertrue gender to the other crew members (Abbott, 2011).

Anne and Read fought alongside each other, and they became fiercefighters who would lead others to attack merchant vessels while theycontinued dressing like men (Defoe &amp Schonhorn, 1999). One of themost memorable event in the life of Anne as a pirate was thecapturing of seven boats and a couple of sloops and recovered fiftyroles of tobacco, nine bags if pimento among other expensive goods.However, the future as pirates was fast going to an end. Woodesreleased a list of the most wanted pirates in the region, and Rackamwas one of them (Defoe &amp Schonhorn, 1999). His reckless behaviorin the sea made his crew developed laxity while at work. Since it wasa risky activity, they were supposed to keep an eye on anyapproaching vessel and flee or prepare for a fight. They developed asoft spot for rum, and they could drink all night in celebration oftheir activities.

On the night of 22nd October 1720, the governor’s men caught upwith Rackam’s ship. Anne and read were on the deck when theydiscovered they mysterious vessel approaching. When they soundedalarmed, the men were too drunk to pick themselves and stage a fight(Abbott, 2011). The governor`s men ordered the crew to surrender butRackam fired at them, and this led to a fierce fight. All the men inRackam’s crew ran for cover leaving him and the two women firingshots at the governor’s men. Rackam was the first to surrender, andhe ordered his crew to do so too (Abbott, 2011). The governor roundedthem up to prison where they faced charges on various accounts ofpiracy. Rackam was the first to go to the hangman. Before meeting hisdeath, he requested to see Anne. She disregarded his behavior ofprematurely surrendering and handing them into the hands of theirtormentors.

Anne and Read were put in prison awaiting their verdict since theyhad pleaded not guilty to the charges. One of the ladies from whoAnne had stolen from identified her and told the authorities thatAnne used to dress like a man, and she only recognized that Anne wasfemale due to her enlarged breast (Woodard, 2008). Their case becametight when the authorities received information that Anne and Readhad threatened to kill the lady if she continued testifying againstthem. The authorities found them guilty and sentenced them to death.However, they could not face the hangmen immediately since they werepregnant (Woodard, 2008).


In conclusion, the life of Anne as a pirate was full of changes sinceshe had to survive amidst men who were used to a rough life. Her lifeas a young girl was influenced by her father who encouraged her todress like a boy. Her association with fishermen and sailorsattracted c hr to piracy and her marriage to James Bonny exposed herto other crews that she joined. Although her piracy life was short,she earned a place in the annals of history as an outstanding femalepirate. It is not clear whether Anne finally went to the gallowsbecause her story ends after prison. However, it is possible that shedid not make it out of prison considering her sentence and the toughrule established by Governor Woodes.


Abbott, K. (2011,August 9). If There is a Man Among Ye: The Tale of Pirate QueensAnne Bonny and Mary Read. Retrieved from

Cordingly, D.(2004). Bonny, Anne (1698–1782). Oxford Dictionary of NationalBiography

Defoe, D., &ampSchonhorn, M. (1999). A General History of the Pirates.Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications.

Rediker, M. (2001).Liberty Beneath the Jolly Roger: The Lives of Anne Bonny and MaryRead, Pirates. Iron Men, Wooden Women: Gender and Seafaring in theAtlantic World, 1700-1920, 1-33.

Rediker, M.(2004). Villains of all Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Goldenage. Boston: Beacon Press

Woodard, C.(2008). Anne Bonny. The Republic of Pirates. Retrieved from

Close Menu