Oh, my! Lady Pirates?

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were both friends and pirates – both were tried and hung.

The role of women in piracy did not begin with Anne Bonny and Mary Read – two of the most notorious and fierce women pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. In reality, female piracy has a much longer and complicated history that predates the Vikings.  One of  the earliest stories of a female pirate in Western history is  that of  a Greek woman known as Queen Teuta of Illyria (231 BC to 227 BC). Chinese mythology also narrates the exploits of a female pirate in approximately 600 AD. while Viking records list female pirates in the 3rd and 4th centuries.  As in the case of both Anne Bonny and Mary Read, most women who became pirates seem to have been forced into piracy due to the death or disappearance of a husband or father -a circumstance that left them defenseless and without any means of support other than an arranged marriage or prostitution.

In this illustration, both Bonny and Read are misrepresented with exposed breasts - most likely to sensationalize the fact of women as pirates.

In this illustration, both Bonny and Read are misrepresented with exposed breasts – most likely to sensationalize the fact of women as pirates.

Following is a list of known female pirates during the Golden Age of Piracy. Much of the information in this list is secondhand and difficult to verify an original source. However, we include this both to dispel the myth that women did not actively operate as pirates, and to show that in almost every instance the women encountered the same dismal fate as their male counterparts.

List of Women in Piracy during the Golden Age of Piracy

Jacquotte Delahaye French 1650s-1660s

  • Also known as “Back from the Dead Red” due to her red hair and return to piracy after   faking her own death and hiding dressed as a man for several years.

Anne Dieu-le-Veut French 1660s-1704

  • Caribbean pirate and later based in Mississippi after Tortuga was closed down. Dieu-Le-Veut was a nickname meaning “God wills it” and given to her as it seemed anything she wanted God gave her. Married to a pirate, Anne challenged pirate Laurens de Graaf to a duel after he killed her husband in 1683. He refused and she became his common law wife, fighting by his side and sharing command.

Anne Bonny Irish (1719-1720)

  • Caribbean pirate. Married to pirate James Bonny, had an affair with pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham, and later joined his crew. Discovered another crew member Mark Read was secretly a woman (Mary Read) and the two became very close.
    Click here to learn more of her life and relationship with Mary Read.

Mary Read, English 1718-1720

  • Caribbean pirate. As a man Mary went to sea and later joined the British army, fighting in the War Of The Spanish Succession. Mary married and settled down as a woman but returned to male dress following the death of her husband, later boarding a ship bound for the West Indies. Captured by “Calico” Jack Rackham, Mary joined his crew. In 1721, she died in prison.
    click here  to learn more of her life and relationship with Anne Bonny.

Mary Harvey, English 1725-1726

  • In 1725, Mary Harvey and her husband Thomas were transported to the Province of Carolina as felons. In 1726, Mary and three men were convicted of piracy. The men were hanged but Mary was released. Thomas, the leader of the pirates, was never caught.

Mary Crickett, English 1728

  • In 1728, Mary Crickett and Edmund Williams were transported to the colony of Virginia together as felons. In 1729, along with four other men, both were convicted of piracy and hung.[10]

Flora Burn American 1751    Operated on the East Coast of North America.

Rachel Wall American 1770s (possibly the first American female pirate)

  • Married George Wall, a former privateer who served in the Revolutionary War, when she was 16. Operated on the New England Coast. Thought to be the first American female pirate. In 1782, George and the rest of his crew were drowned in a storm. She was accused of robbery in 1789 and confessed to being a pirate. She was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.  Click here to learn more about her life
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One response to “Oh, my! Lady Pirates?

  1. Pingback: Women Pirates in a Masculine World | Voyages of the Caribbean·

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