Anne Bonny's and
Mary Reed's pirate ship
The sloop William was a
small but fast twelve-ton sloop. Her armament was
light, consisting of four cannons. At the
time of the final battle, she carried thirteen crewmen.
Her captain, Calico Jack, was famous for two thing: The
design of his Jolly Roger flag--a skull with crossed
swords, and having two female crew members.
The first female sailor was
Anne Bonny, who was commonly referred to as "Toothless
Annie." She earned her reputation of being the
most famous female pirate to sail the Spanish Main.
A ruthless plunderer, raider, this woman was a menace to the sea
faring vessels in the Caribbean Sea.
Anne was born in Ireland during the 1690's. What
surprised most people is that she came from a well-off
family. Her parents
moved to America and became well respected plantation
owners. She grew up in South Carolina and was fascinated
with stories of pirates. At Charleston she met and
married a pirate named James Bonny and the two of them moved
to an island in the Caribbean named Nassau. This island
was basically run by pirates, and Anne Bonny hung around
with famous pirates.
Soon after, James
became a coward
and a traitor, becoming a paid snitch for the governor.
And Anne distanced herself from him, preferring the company
of the island's notorious pirates.
She soon became romantically involved with the dashing
pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham.
James Bonny objected to the affair by abducting Anne and
bringing her naked to the governor who ordered her
whipped on charges of adultery. Calico Jack
intervened and suggested put Anne up for sale to the
highest bidder--a 'kinder' legal practice for divorce at
did not take Jack's proposal and forbade
Jack and Anne to see each other. The pair
(with a new crew) then escaped to sea
together by stealing a sloop. They
sailed the Caribbean for two months,
overtaking other pirate ships. Often Rackham
would invite the crew of ships he attacked
to join his own. Anne worked hard and fought
just as the rest of the crew did. When
her gender was eventually discovered and some of the
crew members who openly voiced their
opinions, Anne replied by killing
them. Anne became pregnant and went to Cuba
to give birth. There, Anne met Mary
Read, a cross-dressing Englishwoman who had
also spent time as a man. Not knowing
her gender, Rackham welcomed Mary Read to
join his crew.
started to have feelings for Mary Read, and Mary learned Anne's secret
when Anne seduced her, thinking her a handsome guy.
And after some flirtation, Mary revealed her
sex to Anne. The women became friends.
Rackham, becoming jealous of the amount of
attention Bonny was giving to Read, threatened
to kill Read until Anne divulged the secret.
Mary soon shared the same man with Anne!
Mary Reed's background
is interesting enough. Her mother who had a legitimate son became pregnant
after her husband died. She fled to the country to give
birth to Mary. During this time, her son died. The
mother returned and brought Mary up in place of the dead son to
get support money from her husband's parents.
Still pretending to be
male, Mary joined first the navy, then the cavalry.
She loved and married a fellow soldier. When
her husband died a few years later, she put on male clothes again
and went to the Caribbean.
Before long, Mary fell
in love with a man who had been forced to join the pirates. She let him know her secret "by carelessly showing her
breasts, which were very white." Soon
after he quarreled with another pirate and was
challenged to a duel. Before the duel time, Mary deliberately picked a fight
with the same man and ran him through with her cutlass.
Both women were very
good at pirating, never shirking from
battle. According to one witness, none among the crew
were "more resolute, or ready to board or undertake anything that was hazardous."
PM on October 20, 1720 the sloop William was
spotted by the HMS Tyger in Dry Harbor Bay
near the shore, while the crew being mostly
drunk and sleeping. The captain Barnet of
the Tyger ordered his men
to extinguish all lights and to silently
approach the pirates. Once his sloop was
near the William, Barnet ordered the pirates
to surrender but the pirates answered with a
few shots from their swivel gun.
Captain Barnet then order his ship to fire a
broadside and to close in for
The pirates immediately set sail, but lacked
manpower as most of the crew retreated into
the cabins. The poor William made it
only a few yards before the Tyger caught up
and continued the boarding. Onboard,
there were only three pirates trying to
fight off the boarding party. They
fought wildly using pistols, cutlasses and boarding axes. One of them
fired a pistol into the hold where the other pirates
were hiding while screaming they should come up and
fight like men. Two of those brave souls were Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
The other one? Not captain Jack.
A trial followed and
Rackham, Bonny, Read and many other members of the crew
were sentenced to hang. When asked if they had anything
to say the women replied, "Milord, we plead our
bellies." Both were pregnant. The court decided it could
not hang any woman who carried a child.
Mary died of a fever before she could deliver her child. It is not known what happened to Anne, but she may have
been paroled because of her father's influence. No
matter what happened to her, Anne is probably most
famous for the words she exchange with Calico Jack when
he was granted the permission to see Anne the last time
on the night before his execution. She scolded him: "I'm sorry to see you here, Jack, but if you'd
have fought like a man you needn't hang like a dog."