Were there any famous female pirates?
Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s celebrate these famous female pirates.
Anne Bonny (1697-1733). Engraving from General History of the Pyrates (1st Dutch Edition 1725) by Captain Charles Johnson.
Anne Bonny was one of the most famous female pirates of all time.
Bonny was an Irishwoman that dressed like a boy from childhood. She married then moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, a safe haven for pirates of the Caribbean.
She had an affair with another pirate captain, John “Calico Jack” Rackham, escaped with him and became his lover and partner. Anne disguised herself as a man aboard ship, but was happily surprised to meet another woman pirate aboard Calico Jack’s sloop named Mary Read.
In popular culture, Bonny is featured in the video game, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Mary Reed (1685-1721), also known as Mark Read, was an English pirate. Read lived most of their life as a man, favoring men’s clothing from an early age. Read acted and lived as a man and even served in the British army. Read worked as a “powder monkey” carrying gunpowder to the cannons on a British ship. It is reported that she fell in love with another soldier, revealed her gender, and the two married. After her husband’s untimely death, Mary Read returned to living as a man.
In 1715 Read sailed to the West Indies, but the ship was raided by Buccaneers and she joined them, either by choice or by force. Read developed a reputation for ruthless violence and foul language.
In 1720, Reed met Calico Jack and joined his crew. Shortly after, Mary Read was captured along with Calico Jack and Anne Bonny. All three were sentenced to hanging, but Anne and Mary had their executions stayed because both were pregnant.
Ching Shih (1775-1844), born Shih Yang, also known as Cheng I Sao, was a Chinese pirate captain.
She was a prostitute or madame who worked in a floating brothel. Cheng developed skills of manipulation, deception and survival which she leveraged to become one of the most successful, feared, and influential pirates in history.
In 1801 she married Cheng Yi, a successful pirate captain. This was one of many strategic partnerships that launched her great pirate career, leading to success and prosperity. She commanded a fleet of hundreds of ships know as junks that raided the fishing vessels, merchant ships, and coastal villages of Southern China.
After her husband died and she secured the fleet’s leadership position, Ching Shih started uniting the fleet of 50,00 men by issuing a code of laws. Some sailors were allowed to bring their wives and children to live aboard ship.
Ching Shih inspired the character Mistress Ching, played by actress Takayo Fischer, in the 2007 film Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
I love this article. I had no idea there were so many women pirates!