Anniversary: Calico Jack

Calico JackOn this day in 1720, Calico Jack was captured. He was a notorious pirate of the Caribbean, whose real name was John Rackham. His is an interesting story. In general, pirate ships were democracies. He was quartermaster on Charles Vane’s ship. When Vane ran from a fight, Rackham called a vote and had Vane deposed. Rackham then took over as captain of the ship.

Rackham is also noted for having two crew members who were women. The first was Mary Read — who was pretty much forced into a life of piracy. The second was the much younger Anne Bonny — who was also Rackham’s lover. It’s interesting when you learn the unvarnished histories of long ago, you see a whole lot of sex. And you don’t see women as the gentle creatures that we’ve been taught about. That seems to have been largely a creation of the Victoria period (although certainly women had never had much power before the law).

In 1720, the Bahamas’ governor named Rackham a pirate, and so Jonathan Barnet went off to capture him. He seems to have succeeded thanks mostly to a large fraction of the crew — Rackham very much included — being too drunk to fight. So the attack was led by Mary Read and Anne Bonny. In fact, legend has it that Bonny’s last words to Rackham in jail were, “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hanged like a dog.” Rackham was indeed hanged soon after.

Both Read and Bonny claimed to be pregnant. By British law, they would be allowed to live until giving birth. Read apparently died in prison from a fever brought on by her pregnancy. Bonny, on the other hand, just disappeared from history. There is no record of her release or execution. According to Wikipedia, the primary theory is that her father (she was illegitimate, but her father was well connected) bought her freedom and married her off in Virginia. By this theory, she went on to have eight children and live into her eighties. I want to believe that.

14 thoughts on “Anniversary: Calico Jack

  1. The Encyclopedia Britannica’s article on Bonny is interesting and has a few different details:

    The Victorians took women from being hypersexed animals to virginal angels. It is very odd that this occurred even with the disproportionate influence that prude Prince Albert had on society. And it did a lot of damage to history since so much of it was then covered up.

    • I think that’s pretty much the information in Wikipedia. I just didn’t go into the stuff about her first husband. But I felt I was getting off track. She would make a great blog post.

      The thing about women (You might have noticed this!) is that they are complicated. It’s a sign of male domination that as a society we want to put women in some simple ideological box.

      • Caleb Carr, in his second book The Angel of Darkness, had a character talk about how women have to be either angels or demons, never in between, because then men have to face that the women in their lives are complicated which upsets the men.

        I actually don’t think women are that complicated-they are just people and people can be simple, complicated or mostly somewhere in between. But that may be because I am a woman.

        • I think everyone is pretty complicated. It’s particularly apparent to myself, as I see something I wrote two days and reflect, “Did I really believe that?!”

              • As long as they are telling you to do things like watch All Hail King Julian which is very cleverly skewering modern society.

                  • They just did an episode about money and I was enjoying the lesson it is teaching kids while looking like it is not doing any such thing.

                    • Okay, if you have Netflix, I beseech you to watch this series’ second season. The election episode is even better than the one on money!

                    • They pretty much nail modern economics. And best of all Mort shows us all how it is just a game.

                    • I thought that Terry Pratchett nailed it in Making Money. There is no loving God when Pratchett dies and Donald Trump lives.

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