Tradition was that pirates believed that it was bad luck to even let a woman aboard their ship. However, there were female pirates that worked alongside men, and some even of these female pirates even became fierce legends in their own right. Continue reading below to learn about the top five female pirates.
Pirate Anne Bonny was born in Ireland in 1690, but traveled to America as a young adult where she fell in love with a young sailor. The newlyweds began traveling the Caribbean and she soon met and fell in love with the famous pirate Jack Rackham. Throwing caution to the wind, she left her young husband and joined Rackham in his raids amassing large quantities of treasure and capturing numerous ships. She ended up marrying Rackham at sea and they even had a child born that was born in Cuba. However, in 1720 their short lived romance came to a halt when Anne and Rackham were captured by a King’s ship trying to rid the seas of piracy. Rackham was hanged for his crimes, but Anne pleaded for mercy due to the fact that she was pregnant with their second child. Her life was consequently spared, yet there remains no record of what became of Anne afterwards. Some people believe she may have returned to her family or even her first husband and decided the quiet life was more appealing than the danger of being a pirate after all.
Pirate Mary Read was actually part of Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham’s pirate crew. Strangely enough, Mary Read began disguising herself as a boy to trick her grandmother into believing she was her dead half brother. As she grew into a young adult, she continued the deception and even worked as a soldier and a merchant sailor. She decided to take a walk on the wild side and become a pirate after a ship she was working on was captured by pirates. After time, she found herself working on Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham’s pirate ship and became friends with Anne and revealed her secret. She earned notoriety as a tough pirate and expert swordswoman. Sadly, she was also captured by the King’s Ship and died in prison from a fever.
Cheng I Sao
Cheng I Sao was originally introduced to piracy by her husband who commanded a massive fleet of over 400 pirate ships and 70,000 sailors. Seven years into their marriage, her husband passed away and she took over as new leader of the fleet. She quickly became a powerful pirate in her own right, and oversaw numerous lucrative invasions across Southeast Asia. In 1810, the Chinese government began a campaign to capture her, but she was able to strike a deal instead. She said she would comply and disband her crew as long as she could keep the fortune she had amassed throughout the years. Surprisingly, the Chinese government accepted this deal and she set up a prosperous gambling house in South China and later passed away at the ripe old age of 69 in 1844.
Legend has it that Rachel Wall was the first American woman to become a pirate. She was born in 1760 in Pennsylvania, yet ran away from home in her teen years and met a fisherman by the name of George Wall. They later married and in an attempt to avoid poverty, they formed a small gang and started scamming sailors off the coast of New England. They would pretend their ship was in danger and call for help, and once the help arrived, they would consequently rob and murder their rescuers. Years later in 1782 a terrible storm destroyed their pirate ship, and her husband George was killed. She decided to give up the pirate life, but continued her crimes on land and was arrested in 1789 for attacking and robbing a woman. In prison, she confessed to all her pirates crimes and was ultimately sentenced to hang to death in Massachusetts.
One of earliest known female pirates, Grace O’Malley was born in 1530 to an established clan in the West of Ireland. Grace became wealthy as an adult when she inherited a lucrative shipping and trading business from her father. However, she adjusted the business model to include attacking and plundering English and Spanish ships and keeping any riches for herself. Grace earned a reputation as a fierce pirate, even returning to battle at sea just one day after giving birth. At one point, Grace’s two sons were captured by the English and Grace tried to barter a deal with Queen Elizabeth I to have them released. However, Grace later felt that the Queen did not complete her part of the bargain and she continued to wreak havoc on the open seas along with her two sons and later passed away in her early 70’s.
We hope you enjoyed this article about five of the top female pirates in history.