Let’s admit it: we all love a good tale about a badass, butt-kicking, sword-wielding she-devil. However, what makes such a story much sweeter is the revelation that it’s actually true.
Anne Bonny was a ruthless female pirate of the 18th century. It’s pretty hard to separate facts from legend when it comes to Bonny, but what I have decided is that many of us could learn a thing or two from her.
Hold your horses. I’m not saying we should all quietly close our MacBook Pros and rush off to rape and pillage the seven seas. What I’m getting at is that Bonny stuck up her middle finger at gender roles and told them to swivel during a time when doing so could cost you more than a few lesbian jibes from your bone-headed male co-workers.
Bonny was born the illegitimate child of her father and his housemaid in Cork, Ireland. The family decided to set up shop in the ‘New World’ in order to escape the scandal caused when Anne’s father’s wife decided to go public about the affair.
Anne’s dad wanted her to grow up a respectable young lady, so you can imagine he wasn’t singing and dancing when she decided to marry pirate James Bonny. However, James turned out to be an informant so, not impressed by her cowardly snitch of a husband, Anne left him for Captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham.
Bonny and Rackham took to the seas, where Bonny proved herself the fiercest swash-buckler on a ship full of men. Together with her fellow female badass accomplice (Mary Read) Bonny launched a mission of cursing, boozing and pillaging until they were eventually caught by a ship sent by the Governor of Jamaica. Most of the men on board were too drunk to put up a fight and surrendered, but Read and Bonny fought for their ship until they were overpowered.
Bonny, Read and Rackham were sentenced to be hanged. However, Bonny and Read both ‘pleaded their bellies’ (they asked to be pardoned because they were pregnant) so their sentences were suspended. Bonny was allowed to visit Rackham the night before his beheading, and infamously told him ‘I’m sorry to see you here, Jack, but if you’d have fought like a man then you needn’t hang like a dog.’ Those probably weren’t the encouraging words he was hoping for.
Read died of a fever in prison, but Bonny just pretty much disappeared off the face of the earth. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states that ‘Evidence provided by the descendants of Anne Bonny suggests that her father managed to secure her release from jail…’ There are loads of rumours as to what happened to her after, but records show she was never actually executed.
As much as I love the story of Anne Bonny and her totally badass descent into piracy, obviously there’s no way I can advocate her behaviour. However, what her story can teach us is that it’s possible to break away from traditionally held views of what a woman should be. It’s possible, that, during a time when women were expected to be eternally chained to the kitchen sink, Bonny chose piracy as a way to escape from the barriers of her gender.
Ladies, let’s not succumb to stabbing passing waitresses or plundering local fishing boats; let’s learn from Anne Bonny in a different way. If anyone ever makes you feel like you shouldn’t do something because you’re a woman, you just politely tell them to go fuck themselves. Just don’t stab anyone through the heart with a cutlass while you do it. That’s illegal.