Anne Bonny, Pirate

Color image of a woman with short hair and pirate hat. Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anne Bonny, from the Pirates of the Spanish Main cigarette card collection, Allen & Ginter, c. 1888.

Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Quick Facts

Significance:
Pirate
Place of Birth:
Ireland
Date of Birth:
Late 1600s
Place of Death:
Unknown
Date of Death:
Early 1700s?

Anne Bonny was a pirate active in the Caribbean between 1718 and 1720.

She was born around the turn of the 1700s in Ireland, the daughter of lawyer William Cormac and his domestic servant, Mary Brennan. When William’s wife discovered he had taken Anne in, she cut off his financial support.

William, Mary, and Anne moved to Charles Town in the Province of Carolina. After a rough start, William made money as a merchant, buying both a townhouse in Charles Town (Charleston) and a nearby plantation. Mary died when Anne was twelve years old.

Anne married a small-time pirate named James Bonny. Her father disapproved of James; he disowned his daughter and kicked her out of his house. Anne may have burned her father’s plantation in retaliation (she was known for her temper).

Sometime between 1714 and 1718, Anne and James moved to the island of Nassau in the Bahamas. This area was known as the Republic of Pirates, a sanctuary for English pirates. James turned informant to the governor in 1718, resulting in the arrest of many pirates. At the same time, Anne was socializing with them in the local taverns. It was in the taverns that Anne met the pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham (so named for the colorful pants he wore). He was captain of the REVENGE. When James Bonny refused to divorce Anne, she joined Calico Jack as a crew member aboard the REVENGE. Over the next years, they were active in and around Jamaica, capturing other vessels and taking their riches.

In October of 1720, Calico Jack and his crew were captured by a “King’s Ship” under commission from the Governor of Jamaica. They were taken to court in Jamaica, where they were convicted of piracy and sentenced to be hanged. In accordance with English common law, Anne “pleaded her belly,” asking for mercy because she was with child. She received a temporary stay of execution until she gave birth.

That is the last that we know of Anne Bonny. Some say she was eventually hanged; others that she was later released and returned to her father in Charleston.

Last updated: May 17, 2019