Anne Bonney and Mary Read

March 8,1702-1782 (?) –  1685 -1721

Anne Bonney and Mary Read are the most famous women pirates in history.  They were the only ones known to have sailed in the new world.

Anne Bonney, born March 8th, 1702 (there wasn’t an International Women’s Day then) in County Cork, Ireland, the daughter of lawyer William Cormac and his wife’s housemaid. The happy couple relocated to a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina, to escape the shame of their daughter, and the wrath of Mrs. Cormac.

Anne grew up as a headstrong girl, with a known ferocious temper. She eloped with a sailor/pirate James Bonney when both were quite young. There is some question that her father drove them away, and that is not in the Ford Bronco sense. Bonney took his new bride to honeymoon in the Bahamas, not the resort area we know now, but a known haven for pirates.  James picked up a temp job as an informant, and Anne, disgusted with his cowardice, proceeded to fall for Captain Jack Rackham a.k.a. Calico Jack.  Disguising herself as a male, she sailed with Calico Jack on his sloop the Vanity, She is now sailing under the famous skull-and-crossed-daggers flag.  Anne is believed to have become pregnant by Jack and returned to shore only long enough to have her baby and leave it with friends in Cuba before rejoining him on the high seas.

Mary Read was born at Plymouth, England, about 1685. Her mother’s husband was a seafaring man who went to sea and never returned.  He had left his wife pregnant and she gave birth to a son who soon died. Not long after his illegitimate half sister was born, Mary.  Mom kind of waited for her husband to return for years, and was forced to go to her mother in law for help.  She knew that the old woman was partial to boys and disliked girls.  This is the beginning of Mary’s cross dressing habit.  It worked, with the old lady enough to support them, and it worked with scores of others even after granny died. When Mary was a teenager, she hired out as a footboy, and she was growing more and more bold, looking for a bigger adventure.  She signed onto a man-of-war ship and the military moving her male persona into a career of distinction.  You know how intriguing a man in uniform can be, especially to a cross dressing young woman, and she revealed her sex to a fellow sailor/soldier.  Since he did not appear to have a problem with her fashion sense, they married.  The happy couple became innkeepers, owning the Three Horseshoes near the castle of Breda in Holland.

Mr. died and money became scarce so Mary donned her work clothes.  She knew that job opportunities in the 1700 were much easier for a man, and Mary returned to the sea on a Merchant ship.  Sailing off to the Caribbean her ship was commandeered by English pirates, bad for some and a promotion for Mary. Later her ship was taken by Calico Jack and his pirates; she quickly submitted her resume. Anne Bonney was already part of the crew, and they quickly discovered each other’s secret (probably at the Tampax machine in the women’s bathroom).  They had much in common and they became close friends possibly very very close friends.  Anne and Mary may have been lovers who could have included Calico Jack, which is its own pot of stew.

Anne and Mary were both known for their violent tempers, savage fighting and often called “fierce hell cats.” The crew members knew that in times of action — no one else was more ruthless and bloodthirsty than these two. Calico Jack was one heck of a pirate, but he is remembered more for his involvement with the women.  Unfortunately Calico Jack did not take well to Anne’s flirtatious nature and his authority waned. He sought comfort in rum while, Anne and Mary assumed the real leadership of the ship no longer did they hide their true gender.

In October 1720, they were anchored off Point Negril, Jamaica, for a hard drinking celebration of recent victories. A British sloop surprised them, sending the drunken men scampering below deck to hide.  Anne and Mary were left to defend the ship, and yelled at their mates to “come up, you cowards, and fight like men,” They angrily raged against the crew, killing one and wounding several others. It made little difference the two women were left to fight the Brits alone.  The British Navy was victorious and every survivor was taken to Jamaica.  Jack and the male crew were tried, and sentenced to hang. Anne was allowed to visit him before his execution, and not one for sentimentality her words live in history as “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.” Anne and Mary were tried one week after Calico’s execution and found guilty. At the sentencing the judge allowed them to speak, and they both replied, “Mi’lord, we plead our bellies.” Both were pregnant, and since British law forbade killing an unborn child, their sentences were stayed – temporarily. Mary is said to have died of a violent fever in the Spanish Town prison in 1721, before the birth of her child, (or during the birth per the History Channel). Another theory suggests she feigned death and sneaked out of the prison under a shroud. There is no record of Anne’s execution. Some say that her father bought her release and she settled down to a quiet family life on a small Caribbean island. There is another belief that she lived out her life in England, owning a tavern telling long tales of the sea and adventure.  Choice number three say that Anne and Mary moved to Louisiana where they raised their children together and were non traditional to the end.