(1697/8 - 1720?)
was born Anne Cormac
in County Cork, Ireland,
the daughter of a servant woman, Mary Brennan, and her employer, lawyer William Cormacwhose cunning wife soon discovered the
affair. Fleeing the scandal, William Cormac, Mary Brennan, and young Anne sailed across the Atlantic, to settle in Charleston,
pparently bored with life on her father's plantation, Anne was drawn to a life of adventure.
Pirates frequented Charleston, and before Anne was out of her teens she had married James Bonny, a renegade seaman and sometimes
pirate. Apparently, James planned to steal William Cormac's land through the marriage, and Anne's father disowned her. Legend
has it that in retaliation, Anne burned the plantation.T
he couple fled to the pirate haven of
New Providence, in what is now Nassau. James proved a coward and a traitor, becoming a paid snitch for the governor. Anne
distanced herself from him, preferring the company of the island's notorious pirates and the women and gay men who loved them.
he soon became
romantically involved with the dashing pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham (nicknamed for his loud striped pants), who had just commandeered
a ship full of liquor from his former boss, pirate captain Charles Vane. When James Bonny objected to the affair, he abducted
Anne, brought her naked before the governor and charged her with the felony of deserting himAnne was considered to be stolen
. Calico Jack suggested instead putting Anne up for sale to the highest bidder, a 'kinder' legal practice for
divorce at the time. Despite Jack's rather less-than-romantic proposal, as well as a court order James got forbidding Jack
and Anne to see each other, Anne ran away with Calico Jack, joining his ship's crew, apparently disguised as a man. A
nne proved a daringand deadlyfighter, using a sword and pistols. There are many tales of her violent temper,
beginning with her alleged stabbing murder of an English serving-maid while Anne was a teen on her father's plantation (I've
read that slavery was not fully institutionalized at that time, btw). Supposedly, while on shore in New Providence she became
such an expert fencer and troublemaker that she publicly stripped her fencing instructor with her sword, and that she severely
beat a man with a chair for making a pass at her. While much of these stories is probably pure b.s., it's no more so than
the exaggerated tales of male pirates and outlaws. H
owever, it is her exploits at sea that gained
Anne the most notoriety. She not only raided with Calico Jack, but also Jack's lieutenant, with whom she developed a mutual
attraction. 'He' turned out to be none other than Mary Read
. The two women revealed their gender to each other, and may have had a lesbian romance. Eventually, both were known as bloodthirsty,
daring female pirates, swinging their blades and boarding ships, fighting with even more courage than the menas they proved
in their final battle. I
n 1720, a former pirate turned pirate-hunter, Captain Barnet, attacked
Calico Jack's ship. Rackham and almost all the pirates were drunk, and the cannonfire was so thick the men hid belowdecks.
Anne Bonny and Mary Read stood their ground, fighting furiously. Outraged by the men's cowardice, Anne is said to have shouted,
"If there's a man among ye, ye'll come out and fight like the men ye are
[thought?] to be."
When this got no
response, Anne and Mary shot the male pirates, killing one and wounding severalincluding Jack Rackham. But despite Anne and
Mary's ferocity, the pirates were captured. A
ll were hangedexcept for Anne and Mary, who "plead
their bellies," claiming to be pregnant because while the ever-'chivalrous' laws of the time gave women no rights whatsoever,
it was illegal to execute a pregnant woman (...so 'pro-life,' isn't it?). After the trial, Anne Bonny disappears from the
historical record; she may have been hanged a year later, but apparently, she was granted a reprieve. Patriarchal theories
abound: some say she reconciled and returned to her father, others her husband, and there's even the ridiculous myth that
she became a nun. However, regardless of her fate, I would guess that after such a life of adventure, she could never stand
a traditional woman's constrained life, or even obey the law. The fact that we hear nothing more about Anne may speak volumes;
there may be nothing to tell, or there may have been something to cover up....
(16?? - 1720)
most of her life disguised as a man. In fact, her mother raised Mary as a boy almost from birth her father died before she
was born, and her infant brother (whose name may have been Mark), the only legal heir under patriarchal system of primogeniture,
also died. So, her mother had Mary take her brother's place to keep them out of poverty. From this ruse, Mary's paternal grandmother
(who somehow controlled the money) supported the family until she, too, died. By the way, all this dying and disguising took
place in Devon County, England.
After this, Mary was on her own. She first held a job as a footboy,
but she was apparently not the subservient type. She wanted action, and found it by enlisting in the infantry, fighting in
Flanders (now parts of Belgium, France, and the Netherlands). Mary served with distinction, but fell in love with another
soldier, revealing her gender to him. They left the army, married, and ran a tavern, The Three Horseshoes, from 1697
to 1717. This all ended when peace cleared out their military clientel, and the man died not long after they went bankrupt.
Mary once again disguised herself as a man so she could earn a living.