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Nearly without exception, everything about the life of Anne Bonny is debatable, including the date of both her birth and her death. She was born near Cork in Ireland as the illegitimate daughter of a married lawyer, William Cormac, and his maid, Mary. Soon after the affair was discovered, Cormac and his wife split and he moved to South Carolina with Anne and her mother. When Anne was about 13, her mother died and Cormac raised her alone. By this time, he had re-acquired a good reputation and had a sizable worth, including a large plantation.
Anne's youth was, by most accounts, turbulent. There are a few references to her stabbing and killing a servant girl for making her mad, and others to her trying to kill a man who raped her. Still, Anne was considered a 'good catch' on account of her looks and her father's wealth. When she was about 16, Anne married a small-time pirate named James Bonny. He was more interested in Anne's wealth than in the woman herself, and they both were thwarted when Anne's father, furious by her choice of husband, disowned her. Anne and James moved to New Providence in the Bahamas—already a well-established pirate town. It was so well-established, in fact, that its governor began to recruit pirate informants. James Bonny quickly took up the charge and gave the names of several pirates, many of whom Anne reportedly knew and called friends. In part because James was a 'turn-coat' and in part because he had never been fully committed to Anne in the first place, Anne began an affair with another pirate on the island, John 'Calico Jack' Rackham.
According to Daniel Defoe's A General History of the Pirates, when their affair was discovered, Anne dressed as a man and ran away with Rackham to his ship. A few months later, 'she proved with child' and was taken to Cuba, where she delivered. A short time later, she returned to Rackham's crew alone. Some sources say the child died, while others say Anne abandoned it because James Bonny was the father. Regardless of what happened, the child never turns up again in her history.
While at sea with Rackham, Anne Bonny fought with more skill and fierceness than was typical—for a man or woman. Legend has it that the first crewman who tried to assault her was stabbed instantly through the heart.
How Anne met Mary Read is point of contention for historians. The most consistent theory suggests that Read was brought aboard Rackham's ship disguised as a man. Anne took a liking to 'him,' and when she brought Read in private and showed her affections, Mary showed her her breasts. However it happened, once they met, the two didn't separate. Together with Rackham aboard the Revenge, they developed a reputation for being among the most feared crew in the Caribbean.
In October 1720, the governor of Jamaica learned that Rackham's crew had stolen a ship called the William, anchored somewhere near Nassau. When they were discovered, most of the crew was drunk and put up a pitiful fight. Anne and Mary, the exceptions, were the last two standing.
Despite their fight, the crew was captured and went to trial in Port Royal, Jamaica in mid-November 1720. Some claim that the cowardice displayed by their fellow crew members infuriated the women more than being captured. Bonny's last words to Rackham were, "I'm sorry to see you here, but if you'd fought like a man you needn't to hang like a dog."
When it came time for their sentence, the women were spared execution because they were pregnant. Some suggest that Anne Bonny's rich father never truly abandoned his headstrong daughter, who was pregnant, alone and sentenced to die. Perhaps Cormac used his money and influence to take her back to South Carolina, where she changed her name and raised a family. There is no substantiated historical record of her after November 1720.
Dawn Brodey has been a professional actor in the Twin Cities since graduating from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Her professional experience runs the gamut—from Shakespeare on stage, to super-villain on film, to the Easter Bunny on Nicollet Mall. She has enjoyed working with several local theaters including The Actors Theater, Hey City, The Brave New Workshop and The Mystery Cafe. Dawn is also an accomplished historian and playwright, having done work for the Bakken Museum, The Museum of Russian Art, and the Macmillan Library. Dawn has also committed countless acts of piracy during her last five years living aboard a houseboat on the Mississippi River.
Leigha Horton's theater credits include Ms. Ina Shaw in Tale of a West Texas Marsupial Girl (Children's Theatre Company), Nurse Evelyn Marsden in Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition (Science Museum of Minnesota), Sarah in See You Next Tuesday (Walking Shadow), Ralphie's mom in A Christmas Story (St. Croix Festival Theatre), Feste in Twelfth Night (TRP), and nearly everything in the Ministry of Cultural Warfare's producing history. Leigha can be heard regularly on national TV and radio for Target, Cadillac, Nexxus, Caribou Coffee, Yoplait Yogurt, Progresso Soup, Marketplace Events, and Kona Grill, among others. For musings on Leigha's performance shenanigans, visit The Greenroom at www.leighahorton.com.
Taj Ruler is an actor, improviser, and teaching artist in the Twin Cities. She recently moved back from California after graduating from Pitzer College with her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre Performance and Media Studies. She has studied at the Guthrie Theatre, the Brave New Workshop, and The London Dramatic Academy. Recently Taj has performed at Pillsbury House Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, The Director's Studio, The Brave New Workshop, and The Playwrights' Center. She also works regularly at the Science Museum of Minnesota as a Science Live Actor, performing a wide range of shows—from presentational to more theatrical pieces. Her zeal and excitement to have an expansive career in Twin Cities theatre continually pushes her to work hard, stay focused, and conquer challenges with laughter and fun.