Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

ANNE BONNY (1698?-1782?) & MARY READ (1690?-1721) Pirates of the Caribbean

In adventure, Biography, Feminists, History, People, Pirates, Trivia, Uncategorized, women on February 24, 2010 at 3:25 AM

Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were feminists long before that word came into common usage. They established themselves as successful pirates, breaking through the biggest glass ceiling of their day. In fact, history has romanticized them so much that in recounting their lives, it’s difficult to separate fact from speculation.    

Anne Bonny was allegedly born sometime around 1700 in Ireland, the love child of attorney William Cormac and the maid. When Mrs. Cormac found out about the affair, she exposed her husband’s infidelity and ruined his reputation. This forced Cormac and the maid out of town, and they moved way out of town to the United States, settling in Charleston, South Carolina. He reestablished himself as a lawyer, made a fortune, and bought a plantation.    

Stories differ about Bonny’s teenage years. One account says she stabbed a servant girl in the stomach with a table knife. Some claim that the source of her temper was the death of her mother. All agree that about age 16 she married James Bonny, a poor sailor, wanna-be pirate and opportunist. This charming fellow was not her father’s choice for a son-in-law, so he disinherited his daughter. Whether Bonny set the plantation on fire in revenge or not is disputed. We do know that at some point the Bonnys moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, a popular base for pirate operations.    

 Bonny became restless while her husband was away perfecting his pillaging and plundering and beefing up his resume as a buccaneer. She met John “Calico Jack” Rackham in one of the local bars, and they had an affair. James Bonny discovered his wife’s indiscretion and dragged her in front of the governor for punishment. Governor Rogers sentenced Bonny to flogging, but Rackham did the chivalrous thing and came to her rescue. Together they stole away on his ship, Revenge, and as a crewmember, Bonny began her career as a pirate.    

Mary Read was born about 1690 in England to an impoverished widow of a sea captain. When Read’s older brother died, her mom dressed her like a boy to trick her mother-in-law (who did not like girls) into providing financial support. Grandma was duped and gave them money until she died.    

 Cross-dressing proved so successful for Read that she used it to get work as a footman, and then become a soldier. She fell in love with a fellow soldier, disclosed her true gender, and they got married. Together they ran The Three Horseshoes inn in the Netherlands. Read adapted herself to the role of the wife of an innkeeper and dressed like a woman until her husband’s sudden death.    

On her own, Read relied on previous experience and used her husband’s clothes to disguise herself again as a man. She eventually ended up on a merchant ship bound for the Caribbean. That ship was captured by pirates and Read was forced to join them. This ended up being a dead end job, so the crew accepted the King’s Pardon around 1718, and continued operations as privateers.    

Bonny and Read met in Nassau. Even though they were the only two female pirates, they became friends instead of rivals. No less capable because of their gender, they quickly proved their worth to Rackham by helping him steal an armed sloop from the Nassau harbor. Onboard the ship both women donned the traditional male pirate attire for battle. Apparently they had the kickass, ‘take no prisoners” attitude to match as a fellow crewmate described them as being “very profligate, cursing and swearing much, and very ready and willing to do anything on board.” 1    

Bonny and Read loved to fight, and they deserved much of the credit for the successful exploits of Rackham and his crew. In October 1720, the crew of the Revenge was caught unaware while anchored off the coast of Jamaica. After celebrating recent victories with extensive merrymaking, the male crewmembers were below deck sleeping off their drunken stupor when the ship was attacked. Pirate hunter Captain Jonathan Barnet, an emissary of Governor Lawes of Jamaica, attempted a takeover, and it was left to Bonny and Read to defend the ship. Despite their valiant efforts, the two women were no match for the attackers and eventually surrendered. Rackham and his entire crew, including Bonny and Read, were captured, tried and sentenced to death by hanging. Bonny visited Rackham in jail before his execution, but she wasn’t feeling very sympathetic. Her final words to him were, “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”    

 At their sentencing, Bonny and Read “pleaded their bellies.” By declaring themselves pregnant they received a stay of execution until after the birth of their babies. It is most widely believed that Read died in prison either of illness or in childbirth.    

There is no record of Bonny’s execution or her release. However, most speculation supports the story that she was ransomed by her father, gave birth to Rackham’s son and was buried in Charleston, South Carolina. One source gives her the benefit of a true Hollywood ending by marrying a fellow Carolinian and having eight more children.    

QUESTION:  What career would you love to try? 

                            © 2010 Debbie Foulkes  All Rights Reserved     




ANNIE EDSON TAYLOR (1838-1921)- First Person To Go Over Niagara Falls In A Barrel

In Biography, History, People, Uncategorized on February 9, 2010 at 12:31 AM

Annie Taylor with barrel

Annie Edson Taylor’s life had its ups and downs.  But at the age when most people were resigned to rocking on the front porch, circumstances in her life pushed her over the edge, literally. 

One of eight children born in New York, her father, Samuel Edson, owned a flour mill which generated enough income to leave a comfortable living for the family after his death, when Taylor was only twelve years old.    

 Taylor came of age in an era when women didn’t have many options, so she graduated (with honors) from a teacher training course.  While in school, she met David Taylor.  She was seventeen when they married, and not long afterwards they had a son who died in infancy.  Her troubles were compounded when her husband was mortally wounded in the Civil War.  At twenty-five years old Taylor was a widow with her whole life ahead of her.

 Taylor couldn’t seem to settle down, so, with her teaching to fall back on and a strong sense of wanderlust, she tried out various jobs in several different cities.  A woman of many talents, when she hit Bay City, Michigan, she decided to teach dance.  Never mind there were no dance schools, she opened her own.  When she tired of that, she landed in Sault Ste. Marie to teach music.  After a while, she pulled up stakes once again and went with a friend to San Antonio, Texas, the jumping off point for an adventure in Mexico City.  In 1900, when work didn’t pan out there, she headed back to Bay City.

By now she had exceeded the life expectancy for women by about 10 years.  She had run out of money, and at 62 years old, she knew she needed to do something to make her future financially secure. She read an article about the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York and how those who were attending the expo were also flocking to see Niagara Falls.  That’s when the idea for her get-rich-quick scheme came to her in a flash, something that no one (man or woman) had ever done before: go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was banking not only on surviving the experience, but that she would earn lots of money from telling her story.

Taylor’s mode of transportation would be a custom-built oak and iron barrel lined with a mattress and leather harness to secure her arms.  The barrel was four and a half feet high and three feet in diameter with a blacksmith’s anvil secured in the bottom to keep the barrel upright.  Not everyone was on board with her adventure.  There were several delays in the completion of the barrel because many people wanted to distance themselves from a potential suicide.  Taylor was confronted by a reporter asking if she was suicidal.  She replied that she was a good Episcopalian, believed in a Supreme Being, and was aware that self destruction held consequences in the afterlife.  Finally, as a safety measure, Taylor was convinced to let a cat go over the falls in the barrel on a test run.  When the cat survived the fall, it was all systems go.

On October 24, 1901, Taylor celebrated her 63rd birthday not with cake and ice cream, but with the ride of a lifetime.  At a point south of Goat Island near the American shore, she climbed from a row boat into the barrel with her lucky heart-shaped pillow.  Her conspirators sealed the lid, pumped air in through a hole which they plugged with a cork, and gave her a push.     Thanks to her promoter, there were thousands of people watching the barrel drift down the river, tumble over the falls and plunge into the deep water.  The suspense lasted about twenty minutes when the barrel popped up and finally drifted close enough to shore to be recovered.  Taylor admitted to losing consciousness when she dropped over the falls, but the only injury she sustained was a cut on her head and the effects of shock.

Since there were no reality TV shows to star in (or no television for that matter), in order to cash in on her feat, Taylor recounted her experience in lectures and posed for photos at a souvenir stand.  Her manager took off with her barrel, and most of her money was spent trying to reclaim it, which she never did.  For all her efforts, Taylor died destitute 20 years later, but she held the record of being the only person to go over the falls for ten years.  She is buried in the “Stunters Section” of the Oakwood Cemetery in Niagara Falls, New York.

QUESTION:  What is the most daring thing you or someone you know has ever done?  Was it a positive experience?

                   ©2010 Debbie Foulkes All Rights Reserved