When you think about pirates, what comes to mind? Probably an image of a man with a striped shirt, tattered pants and a bandana covering his hair. Did you know that there were female pirates as well? In general, many pirates believed it was ill luck to let a woman board their pirate ship, but a few female pirates existed that made a name for themselves. Read below to learn about five fierce female pirates that left their mark on history.
Pirate Anne Bonny
Born in Ireland around the year 1690, Pirate Anne Bonny traveled to America as a young woman where she soon fell in love and married a young sailor. A short time later, the married couple started voyaging throughout the Caribbean where Anne was introduced to a famous pirate named Jack Rackham. Anne quickly became enamored with Jack, and left her new husband and joined Jack on his escapades on the open sea. They made a name for themselves amassing a great fortune from successfully hijacking and robbing ships that they encountered. Later, they even had a child born that was born in Cuba. Their short lived romance came to an abrupt end in 1720 when Anne and Rackham were captured by a King’s ship that was attempting to eradicate piracy. Jack Rackham was sentenced to be hanged to death for his crimes, but Anne was able to escape death by pleading for her life as she was pregnant with their second child. There remains no record of what became of Anne afterwards, and many people conclude she either returned to her family or to her first husband after deciding that pirate life was no longer for her.
Pirate Mary Read
Mary Read grew up disguising herself as a boy because she had decided to convince her grandmother that she was actually her dead half brother. As she grew into a young woman, she continued the deception and even worked as both a soldier and a sailor under the guise of being a man. She found herself turning to piracy after a ship she was working on was captured by Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham. She grew close with Anne, and later revealed her secret to Anne that she was actually a woman disguised as a man. An expert swordswoman and pirate, she was eventually captured when the King’s Ship caught Anne & Jack’s pirate ship, and decided to plead mercy by claiming she was pregnant as well. Her request was granted, but she later died in prison after succumbing to a fever.
Pirate Cheng I Sao
Female Pirate Cheng I Sao became a pirate herself as her husband was a pirate captain that headed up an enormous fleet of over 400 pirate ships and 70,000 sailors. After seven years of marriage, her husband died and she took over reigns as the new captain of the pirate fleet. Becoming a well respected pirate in her own right, she executed various successful raids that stretched all across Southeast Asia. The Chinese government began a campaign in 1810 to attempt to put an end to her escapades, but she was able to barter a compromise instead where she agreed to disband her pirate crew as long as she was allowed to keep her riches. The Chinese government concurred, and she later operated a prosperous gambling house in South China and eventually passed away at 69 years old in 1844.
Pirate Rachel Wall
Born in 1760 in Pennsylvania, Pirate Rachel Wall is considered the first American woman to become a pirate. She ran away from home as a teenager and fell in love with a fisherman by the name of George Wall. They married and formed a small gang that scammed sailors off the coast of New England by pretending their ship was in danger. Once their rescuers arrived, they would consequently rob and murder them. In 1782 a terrible storm destroyed their pirate ship, and her husband George was killed as well. Opting to give up the pirate life, she continued her life of crime on dry land, but was arrested in 1789 for attacking and robbing a woman. She confessed to all her crimes in prison, and was ultimately sentenced to hang to death in Massachusetts.
Pirate Grace O’Malley
Grace O’Malley was born in 1530 in the West of Ireland, and is one of the earliest documented female pirates. Grace inherited a lucrative shipping and trading business from her father, and began to operate her ships by attacking and plundering English and Spanish ships to steal whatever riches they had on board. She had a reputation as a fierce and powerful pirate, and rumor has it she was so tough she returned to battle at sea just one day after giving birth. Grace’s two sons were captured by the English at one point, and Grace was successfully able to come to an agreement with Queen Elizabeth I in order to have her sons released. Despite of this, Grace felt that the Queen did not complete her part of the deal and she continued her pirate ways along with her two sons. Grace later passed away in her early 70’s.
Thanks for reading about these five fierce female pirates…now try to say that five times fast!