Comments, In Focus

Anne Bonny, an indecipherable mystery

She was the first woman to be part of that clan that terrorised the seas and she became known for crossing the Caribbean, but, most of all, for fighting under the command of Captain “Calico Jack” Rackham, from 1718 to 1720.


Silvio González


Bonny has been the inspiration for countless books, films and legends and although she was born in Ireland, when she was a child her family moved to Chraleston, South Carolina, so she can be described as American of Irish origin.

The birth of Bonny, who is considered as the first of a handful of women pirates, was the result of a scandalous romance between the British lawyer William Cormac and his servant, Peg Brennan.

Her father was forced to flee to American shores with his daughter, writes Marcus Rediker in his book “Villains of All Nations”.

The book describes her as a rebellious and wanton teenager, which lead to her being thrown out of home by her father and to her marriage to James Bonny, whose surname she took.

Later she settled in New Providence (today Nassau, capital of the Bahamas) and whilst James was away she met and fell in love with the famous adventurer, Captain Rackham, who immediately suggested that she accompany him on his travels around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Bonny chatted, drank and fought with the rest of the sailors, according to the book “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates” written by Daniel Defoe (1660-1731).

She dressed like a man and nobody suspected that this handsome young man, who had become Captain Rackham´s assistant, was in the privacy of her cabin, a young woman full of burning desire.

During one of the raids on merchant ships organised by Calico, they captured and recruited another female sailor who dressed as a man, the English woman, Mary Read.  When Bonny discovered that she was a woman, the two women became friends and Rackham allowed her to remain on board.

Read and Bonny became two of the bravest members of Rackham´s crew.

Bonny fell pregnant as a result of her risky and clandestine relationship with Rackham and she was smuggled off the ship and into a hideout that the pirates had on the southern coast of Cuba where many confirm that she gave birth to a daughter.


A mysterious legend, that continues today, started at that time in a place known as Tureira, near to the town of Fernandina de Jagua (today Cienfuegos), on the southern coast of Cuba.

According to historical and archaeological research, Tureira was the name of an indigenous settlement, today the site of the city Cienfuegos, and means “pathway to Heaven and the Gods”.

The legend tells that a Cuban peasant called José Díaz was visited one night in his shack by one of those dangerous sea bandits, famous for their villainy.

The captain explained to Díaz that he needed him to look after and feed a new born baby and he gave him clothes, jewels and a huge quantity of money to cover his costs.

The sailor, who was accompanied by a beautiful woman, never told him when he would come back for the child.

The child was raised by the Díaz family, who baptised her with the name of Azulina.  By the age of fifteen she was already beautiful with fair skin, blonde hair and big almond-shaped blue eyes.

After that time nothing more was known of Azurina or whether she remained in the Cienfuegos region.

In the same way, Bonny too disappeared quietly into anonymity after having been the centre of everybody´s attention as one of the figures of the Golden Age of Piracy.  In the midst of the Victorian Age when women´s freedom was seriously restricted, Bonny managed to turn herself into a kind of heroine.

Very little is recorded of this woman´s story which is blurry and inconclusive and, although many consider her to be the first feminist in the world, nobody can be sure of the influence that she had on other women of her time, or on present day women.

On 20th October 1720, Rackham and his crew were captured by the British navy while they were in the middle of a drinking session and only Bonny and Read put up resistance.  Several researchers claim that Bonny and Read were both pregnant at the time that they were sentenced to death by hanging on 18th November 1720 in Jamaica for acts of piracy.

But due to their pregnant state both were granted a stay of execution.  Read died of fever two months later in prison, but the whereabouts of Bonny continue to be an indecipherable mystery, she disappeared from official records and everybody assures that she was never executed and so she was able to be set free.

Some studies claim that Captain Rackham´s last wish before dying in the gallows was to see his love.

In this last encounter, Bonny told her lover that if he would have fought like a real man, he would not have been killed by hanging, like a dog.

Bonny´s daring actions have been transformed, sweetened, recounted and glorified, turning them into a stunning model of courage, writes Nigel Cawthorne in his book “Blood and Thunder on the High Seas”.

(Translated by Zoë Thurston – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

Share it / Compartir:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *