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Anne Bonny dressed like a man, surprising men when her deception was revealed




Anne Bonny was born in County Cork in 1697. She became one of few female buccaneers. Bonny has become an icon of the Golden Age of Piracy. In an era when women had few rights of their own, Bonny had to show enormous courage in order to become an equal to male crewmembers and respected as a pirate.

The illegitimate daughter of her father and a servant, Mary Brennan, Bonny was taken as a young child to the New World after her father’s infidelity was made public in Ireland. Bonny's mother died when she was 12. There she was brought up on a plantation up until the age of 16, when she fell in love with a privateer named James Bonny.


Bonny's father William Cormac first moved to London to get away from his wife's family, and he began dressing his daughter as a boy and calling her "Andy". When Cormac's wife discovered William had taken in the illegitimate daughter and was bringing the child up to be a lawyer's clerk and dressing her as a boy, she stopped giving him an allowance. Cormac then moved to the Province of Carolina, taking along his former serving girl, the mother of Bonny.







Bonny's father abandoned the original "Mc" prefix of their family name to blend more easily into the Charles Town citizenry. At first, the family had a rough start in their new home, but Cormac's knowledge of law and ability to buy and sell goods soon financed a townhouse and eventually a plantation just out of town. Her father attempted to establish himself as an attorney but did not do well. Eventually, he joined the more profitable merchant business and accumulated a substantial fortune.

It is recorded that Bonny had red hair and was considered a "good catch" but may have had a fiery temper; at age 13, she supposedly stabbed a servant girl with a knife.

After marrying James, much to the disapproval of her father, Bonny established herself in the pirate hideout of New Providence. The extensive network she built with numerous pirates soon began to compromise her marriage, as James Bonny had become a pirate informer. Her feelings towards the notorious pirate Jack Rackham didn’t help matters either, and the two eloped together in 1719.







Aboard Rackham’s vessel 'Revenge,' Bonny also developed an intimate personal relationship with Mary Read, another female pirate who like herself, had disguised herself as a man.


Legend has it that Bonny fell in love with Read only to be bitterly disappointed when she revealed her true gender, but more likely they had some kind of early lesbian encounter. Rackham was also thought to have become extremely jealous of the two’s intimacy, but may have been more understanding in an enlightened age.








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