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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HerStoria Spotlight - Women Pirates

Thanks to Amy’s suggestion I picked up HerStoria Magazine. There are some amazing articles in these magazines. I have decided that every so often I will do a post based on something that intrigued me in these articles.

This session is about women pirates.

I have always been interested in pirates, as I think many people are. The thought of a woman pirate had never really crossed my mind. Apparently there are not too many recorded women pirates but there were a few that I was clued in to in the article.

Mary Read (English): Mary Read began dressing as a man after her husband died and became a sailor in Holland. After doing that for awhile, Mary joined the ranks of Calico Jack’s ship where Anne Bonny was already a pirate. Anne fell in love with Mary, who was still dressed as a man. It is believed that they became lovers. While attacking ships, Mary dressed as a man, but during the other times aboard ship, she dressed as a woman. Their ship was overrun by a pirate hunter in Jamaica and both Mary and Anne were imprisoned. Mary was not executed because she was pregnant (supposedly by an artist), but she died in prison from childbirth fever.

Anne Bonny (American): As a young teen, Anne Bonny ran off and married a low ranking pirate. While they were in the Bahamas she met the pirate Calico Jack and had an affair with him. Her husband was upset and had her tried for adultery – she eventually ran away with Jack and joined his crew. Anne was a successful pirate with Jack. As stated above she had a relationship with Mary Read. When their ship was captured she plead pregnancy as Mary had done (the child is believed to have been Jack’s). It is believed that her father was able to secure her release and brought her back to South Carolina where she lived to an old age.

Grace O’Malley (Irish): Grace’s father was involved in international shipping, so the ways of the sea were in her blood. Grace took the reins of her own ship and traveled around Ireland. One of the things that she was known for was stopping trade ships and exacting a tax in order for safe passage – refusal to pay could lead to dire consequences. Grace is most known for her famous meeting with Queen Elizabeth. She met with Elizabeth in order to have her sons and brother released from custody as well as another list of demands in exchange for ceasing her pirating activity. Some were met, some were not. Apparently the women hit it off. She later resumed her piracy.

For further reading try:
Wild Irish by Robin Maxwell (about Grace O’Malley and Elizabeth)
The Only Life the Mattered by Jack Rackam (about Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Calico Jack)

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. OMG I love this!! I gotta get this magazine too! Terrific post (as usual, of course:D

  2. It's always amazed me that in times when the vast majority of women were no more than prisoners in their fathers, and then their husband's, houses, with few rights and no freedom, a handful of them led extraordinary lives. Anne Bonny, Mary Read and Grace O'Malley were just the most famous of them, but the rest (unless they were queens, like Elizabeth) cross-dressed and went into a variety of professions under a male identity. The most amazing of these (but the greatest majority of cross-dresseers) went into the military, or went to sea. How they kept their identity safe has always been a mystery to me, but many of them were not found out until they'd died.

  3. I've always been fascinated by women pirates and I have a couple of books on Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I've also always toyed with writing a novel about female pirates ... but so has every other historical fiction writer!

    I need to get a subscription to HerStoria magazine.

  4. Aw, no African/Asian female pirates here? *sadface*

    Will definitely keep the book titles in mind.

  5. I am so with Leslie I need to get a subscription too. I have been missing out and I know it!

    I love this post even though I am ashamed to say I have not read Wild Irish. I lent it to my mother and it has been a year and I still have not gotten it back, shame on her!

    Great Post!

  6. Wow, thank you for posting this. I never heard of them before, I know, and know i do. Great.

  7. I didn't know about HerStoria...I will definitely be asking for a subscription as part of my xmas wishlist! Thanks for the info, very interesting!!

  8. Another great book to check out is Morgan Llywelyn's 1986 novel about Grace O'Mally - Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas. Llywelyn has a whole series of books set in various parts of Irish history - they're lots of fun to read.

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