Anne Bonny: Female Pirate Extraodinaire

Anne Bonny was one of the most notorious female pirates in history.

  • Born in Ireland in the late 1690’s to early 1700’s, her exact birth date is unknown. She moved to America at a young age after her parents tryst was discovered. Her mother was a maid and her father was the employer.

  • Most of her life story comes from the work of Captain Charles Johnson in “A General History of the Pyrates”, which was published in 1724.

  • Johnson states that “she once badly beat up a young man who ‘would have lain with her, against her Will.’”

  • She married a “small time” pirate named James Bonny, but their marriage was short lived. After moving to New Providence (Nassau), Anne Bonny left James for bigger adventures.

  • She decided to join Calico Jack Rackham’s crew, the pirate who allegedly invented the skull and crossbones flag symbol.

  • The pirate code forbade women on board. This did not stop Anne however, and she decided to cross dress as a man to gain access to Rackham’s crew.


  • Oddly enough, Anne was not the only female in Rackham’s ship. Mary Read was also disguised and soon the pair became friends.

  • According to the crew, “both Anne and Mary were known for their violent tempers and ferocious fighting, and they shared a reputation asfierce hell cats.… in times of action… no one else was as ruthless and bloodthirsty as these two women were.”

  • The two women even “egged their crewmates on to greater acts of bloodshed and violence.”

  • Approximately a year after joining Rackham, Anne became pregnant. She delivered the child in Cuba, and by all accounts abandoned the child there.

  • In 1720, the ship was captured by pirate hunters from England lead by Captain Jonathan Barnet. All of the men coward underneath the decks, Rackham included, and left the two women to fight off the ship. The pair told the crew to “come up, you cowards, and fight like men.” Even though they were able to kill and wound many men, the ship was surrounded and the crew was brought to trial.

  • In November of 1720, the entire crew was sentenced to hang. Luckily for both Anne and Mary, they were both pregnant and their sentences were delayed.

  • Before Rackham was to be hung, Anne told him that “I’m sorry to see you here, Jack, but if you’d have fought like a man you needn’t hang like a dog.”

  • Mary died of a fever while in prison in 1721. It is unclear what happened to Anne Bonny, but what is known is that she managed to have her execution halted. After this, there are little records of where she went.

  • One speculation is that she reconciled with her father while in jail and he brought her back to South Carolina where she married again and lead a respectable life until her death in 1782.

  • She has appeared in many movies, shows, and games throughout time. These include films like Anne of the Indies, A Tattered Flag, and Black Sails; video games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and Dragon’s Crown; and books like “Seizure” by Kathy Reichs, “1636: Seas of Fortune” by Iver P. Cooper and “Ten Nobodies (and their somebodies)” by Martin Drapkin.

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