Jack Rackham, commonly known as Calico Jack, was a pirate captain during the 18th century. He earned his name from the colourful Calico clothes he wore, but is now most famous for having the two most famous female pirates in his crew, Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Rackham had been the quartermaster on an English warship called the Neptune under the command of Captain Vane. When Vane subsequently refused to engage a French vessel in battle, the crew were so disgusted that they mutinied and appointed Rackham as leader. Rackham immediately turned, engaged the French vessel and defeated it.
Following this victory and spurred on by the riches aboard the captured ship, Rackham suggested to the crew that they should turn to piracy. Perhaps in part due to the spectre of mutiny already hanging over their heads, the crew readily agreed.
Later Rackham decided to take an offer of the King’s Pardon and sailed to the shore of New Providence. During this time Rackham met and fell in love with a married woman called Anne Bonny. Rackham was infatuated by Anne and lavished much of his plunder on her. He then joined the crew of Captain Burgess, who was himself a former pirate turned privateer roaming the Caribbean in search of Spanish ships.
When the affair between Rackham and Anne Bonny became public, the Governor of New Providence threatened to have Anne whipped for her adultery. Rather than leave Anne behind to be flogged, the pair resolved to assemble a crew and steal a sloop. Fearing that the crew would refuse to sail alongside a woman, Anne dressed up as a man and took the name Adam Bonny. She became a respected member of the crew and fought alongside her male counterparts in numerous successful engagements.
After several more successful voyages the governor of the Bahamas sent out a heavily armed ship to capture them. Rackham and a few of his crew were forced to flee. They were subsequently captured by a Spanish ship but managed to escape sailing around Jamaica and taking possession of several fishing vessels and a sloop. The governor resolved to capture Rackham and despatched the pirate-hunter Captain Barnet who pursued and captured them.
It is reputed that Rackham had earlier tried to strike a deal with the governor under which he would surrender himself if Clemency was given to Anne and another female pirate called Mary Read. Whether or not this is true, the two women actually escaped the noose by claiming to be pregnant.
Rackham and his crew were finally brought to trial at St. Jago De La Vega in Jamaica on November 16, 1720. He and the remaining members of his crew were found guilty of piracy and hanged the next day.