Friday, May 24, 2013
From my Notable Charlestonians series, professional hellion Anne Bonny.
Sometime Charlestonian Anne Bonny (8 March 1702 – 22 April 1782) was a pirate. As a girl she moved with her family from Ireland to Charleston, SC, where she was noted as a “good catch” in the marriage department (we know only that she had red hair). However her notorious temper became infamous; on one occasion she stabbed a family servant with a table knife. Over the objections of her family she married a sailor, whom she soon abandoned. Much of what we know of her time in the Caribbean is from an early 1700s Dutch book called A General History of the Pyrates, which includes the one and only contemporary portrait of of Bonny, likely idealized or imagined:
Skilled in combat, Bonny, Mary Read and one unknown pirate were the only crew to fight and defend their ship against attack in 1720, as the remaining crew were simply too drunk to fight, including Calico Jack himself. The crew were tried as criminals, but Read and Bonny “pleaded their bellies” and were excused from execution because they were pregnant. Bonny visited Calico Jack in his cell and reportedly uttered that she was “sorry to see him there, but if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang'd like a Dog."
It is unknown what she did upon being released-- return to her husband, resume piracy under a new identity-- but most likely her well-connected father secured her release and she returned to Charleston to give birth, presumably to Rackham's child. In 1721 she married a local man named Joseph Burleigh, and they had 10 children. She died “a respectable woman,” at the age of eighty.
The portrait I drew above is purely imagined based off her description and how I imagine a habitually violent, unwashed pregnant woman living off hardtack biscuits and liquor might have looked. Prints of the drawing are for sale on my Etsy store.