Female Pirate Legends: Women Forced to Live as Men

25 Aug

Anne Bonney and Mary Read

While there may have been other women pirates, the only documented history  we have of female pirates is that of the legendary Anne Bonney and Mary Read.  I came across this wonderful piece of history after reading my friend and fellow blogger’s post on The Tale of Pyrates.  Jennifer got me so intrigued by the life of these two women that I felt compelled to do some more research.

Anne Bonney came to the Caribbean with her new husband James Bonney, a marriage met with great disapproval from Anne’s father. James turned from Pirate to informant and thus lost Anne’s good opinion and her love.  Anne left James and joined notorious pirate Captain Jack Rackham.  Because Anne was breaking into a very male dominated “career” of piracy, she dressed in drag as a man while sailing with Rackham, as they preyed upon Spanish treasure ships off Cuba and Hispaniola.  Legend has it that Bonney took some time off to have a baby and then returned to piracy and left her child with friends in Cuba.

Mary Read had a very sad beginning to life. Her father disappeared and her mother ran out of money to take care of her daughter. Mary was sent to live with her grandmother.  However, because her grandmother hated girls so much, Mary was forced to live and dress as a young boy.

Not a big surprise that both Bonney and Read learned quite well that living as a man in the 18th century was far easier than living as a woman. In 1718, Read’s pirate ship was overtaken by Rackham’s and this is when Read joined the crew. It was not long before Bonney and Read discovered each other’s secret and became friends. According to legend, Read also took a male lover after she spared his life, after killing the man that was going to kill her soon to be new lover.

Jennifer does a great job of talking about the famous women pirates and points you to the Smithsonian article about them, which provides additional information than I have here.  Here is Jen’s blog.

3 Responses to “Female Pirate Legends: Women Forced to Live as Men”

  1. Jay August 25, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    I was talking like a pirate years before it became fashionable. “Avast ye scurvy dog vomits…” and etc. I’m not certain if Tad or I began the in-joke, but it was quite the running gag back in our college days.

    I was particularly enchanted when piracy became mashed into the Flying Spaghetti Monster meme of a few years ago. Pastafarianism blames global warming on the steady decline in pirates–if only there had been more Lady Pirates! Climate change would be averted, and puffy shirts would retain their proper place in fashion.

    Thanks for the memories–may His Noodly Appendage bless you, ye scurvy dog.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 26, 2011 at 6:21 am #

      Jay,
      What a delightful comment. You made me laugh and I had no idea about piracy merging into the FSM.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Female Pirate Legends: Women Forced to Live as Men (via The Solipsistic Me) « bigirlinastraightworld - September 7, 2011

    […] September 8, 2011 at 2:39 am (Uncategorized) While there may have been other women pirates, the only documented history  we have of female pirates is that of the legendary Anne Bonney and Mary Read.  I came across this wonderful piece of history after reading my friend and fellow blogger's post on The Tale of Pyrates.  Jennifer got me so intrigued by the life of these two women that I felt compelled to do some more research. Anne Bonney came to the Caribbean with her new husband James Bonne … Read More […]

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