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Female Pirates
There have been female pirates throughout history including the Irish Granuaile O’Malley, who operated in Elizabethan times; Cheng I Sao whose fleets of junks held sway over the South China Sea in the early 19th century; Cutlass Liz, Sadie the Goat and Gunpowder Gertie, the Pirate Queen of the Kooenays. The two who most interested me, however, were Anne Bonny and Mary Read who operated in the Caribbean from 1719 to 1720.

Anne Bonny was born between 1697 and 1700, the illegitimate daughter of an Irish lawyer. She went with her father to Carolina where she met a sailor called James Bonny. Much to her father’s disapproval, she ran away with him. They went to New Providence in the Bahamas where she met the pirate ‘Calico’ Jack Rackham and took him as her lover. They went cruising together in the Caribbean, taking several vessels. While on board ship, Bonny dressed as a man - more for practical reasons than to disguise her sex. When they returned to New Providence, The ship was joined by Mary Read who was also dressed as a man.

Mary Read had been born in the late 1690s, in England to an impoverished mother who had ‘Bred her daughter dressed as a boy.’ Mary Read had served as a soldier in the Netherlands, following her lover there and joining his regiment. When he died, she took passage as a sailor on a ship bound for the West Indies. Her ship was taken by pirates and she joined them, transferring to Rackham’s ship in the Bahamas. She did not reveal her sex to anyone, but Bonny guessed it. She had to reveal it to Rackham who became jealous of the friendship between the two women. Both women showed great courage and bravery. Mary Read took the place of her lover when he was challenged to a duel, fearing that he was not equal to the fight. A crack shot, she killed her opponent on the spot. When the ship was taken in 1720 the two women were the only ones to put up any resistance. Mary Read calling upon the men who had taken refuge in the hold to come up and fight. When they did not, she fired into them, killing one and wounding others. The two women were put on trial with the others and found guilty, but both were pregnant, so avoided hanging.

Mary Read died of a fever whilst in prison; Anne Bonny disappeared from the record, probably rescued by her wealthy plantation owner father. In court they were described as ‘...both profligate, cursing and swearing much, and very ready and willing to do anything.’ - My kind of girls!