06 August 2007

Women Pirates of the Caribbean

The other night I had a dream of a female pirate captain leading her band of pirates on a high seas adventure. So guess what, I have a new pirate novel in the plotting stages featuring a female pirate.

In history there were two very famous women pirates: Ann Bonny and Mary Reade. Each served under "Calico" Jack Rackham.

Anne Bonny was a woman of intelligence and beauty. She grew up on her father's plantation in Charleston, and at 16 she met small time pirate and sailor, James Bonny. James married Anne for her father's wealth--primarily his plantation--but instead, Anne's father disowned her. Eventually James took Anne to New Providence (modern Nassau), Bahamas, were he became an informant for the new governor, Woodes Rogers, the man credited for ending the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean. Anne began carousing with the pirates and met "Calico" Jack. They had an affair which led to Jack offering to buy Anne's divorce from James. James refused and reported her to the governor. She was brought before the court naked and was flogged and ordered to return to her husband. She escaped with Jack instead.

Aboard Jack's ship the Revenge, Anne disguised herself as a man. Over time Anne became admired for her courage and skill, fighting at the side of the male pirates to capture many ships and taking abundant treasure.

Even though Anne never actually commanded a ship of her own, she is famous never the less for being a female pirate.

Anne Bonny met Mary Reade aboard the Revenge. Anne discovered Mary's identity as a woman and kept her secret. However, Jack became suspicious and confronted Anne to discover the truth. Eventually Mary's true identity as a female pirate was revealed to the crew, and they accepted her as they had Anne.

In 1720 Jack, Anne and Mary's time as pirates came to an end. They were overtaken by John Barnet, a pirate hunter who worked for the governor of Jamaica. They were captured and put on trial in Port Royal. Jack Rackham was hung with his crew on November 27, 1721. Anne's parting words to Jack were cold and hard: "I'm sorry to see you here, but if you'd have fought like a man you needn't hang like a dog."

As for the female pirates, each had claimed they were pregnant, receiving a temporary stay of execution until the birth of their babies. Mary Reade died in prison, possibly from childbirth or fever. And Anne Bonny, the most famous female pirate of the Caribbean, disappeared. There is no record of her execution or death. It is believed her father paid for her release, but it can not be proven.

What happened to Anne Bonny? Did she return to her husband? Or did she escape and return to the sea under a new identity?

Marianne LaCroix
SEA HAWK'S MISTRESS, Available now from Ellora's Cave
CROSSED SWORDS, Coming soon from Ellora's Cave