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Women Pirates, Female Pirates in History

Women Pirates were some of the most cruel pirates one could encounter on the open sea. A few female pirate Captains were even considered murderesses of their own crews!

Women Pirates were some of the most cruel pirates one could encounter on the open sea. A few female pirate Captains were even considered murderesses of their own crews!

Those Scalawag Women Pirates in History


Many of the stories about women pirates are just that: great made up tales that showcase females as pirates, yet when truth be told, are found to be total fiction. History has shown us that several women throughout history have hung the moniker of pirate around their necks, from Queen Artemisia, to female Vikings to modern-day women pirates who populate the Philippine waters. Among these many made-up swashbuckling stories we will find some truth, as many of the pirate females we hear exciting stories about, have been verified and documented in our history books. What you will find here today, are some of the women who truly did live and (in a few cases) even die a pirates life while conducting "business trades" on the treacherously pirated high seas.


Real Life Women Spies!?

Dropping a Few Female Pirate Names

Among the drivel of fantasy female pirate's few names pop-up that have valuable historic information to share. Charlotte Badger, Ann Bonny and her friend Mary Read, Ching Shin, and last but not least American born Rachel Wall. Each of these fighting deck maidens donned the fashion of male pirates to reap the bloody bounty found in the holds of those unfortunate ships who dared to sail within view of their wooden-hulled pirate vessel. With as much grit and guts (and in some cases much more) these women pirates discovered and looted riches and heirlooms from their victims, while hiding their deadly secret. Let's find out just how they kept the simple fact that they were girls hidden from a ship populated with vicious male pirates.

Woman Pirate - CHARLOTTE BADGER

Charlotte Badger was a convicted felon when she was sent to Australia from England. Her seven year deportation stemmed from being convicted as a thief who was found guilty of breaking and entering when she was eighteen years old. As a passenger on the convict shipThe Earl of Cornwallis, she sailed to Sidney and into Port Jackson, in 1801. She served five years of her sentence in a factory, during which time she also gave birth to a baby girl.

With two years of her sentence remaining, she was assigned to work as a servant to a settler in Hobart Town, Tasmania, along with another prisoner named Catherine Hagerty. In mid spring 1806, Charlotte, her daughter, Catherine, along with several male convicts traveled to Hobart on a ship called Venus. While docked at Port Dalrymple in June, the convicted passengers mutinied the ship. Charlotte and her friend Catherine joined the brigade and helped to seize control of the vessel. The Venus now headed for New Zeland with the navigationally-weak pirate crew. Charlotte, her child, Catherine, and two male convicts were dropped off at Rangihoua Bay in the bay of Islands.

WHAT YOU THINK REALLY DOES MATTER

Charlotte and her scruffy crew built huts and lived on the shore of the island. However by 1807, Catherine Hagerty was dead, and the two male convicts had fled. By this time the Venus had been captured by the Islander's and burned. The Maori islanders allowed Charlotte and her daughter to live alongside them. Two times she was offered safe return to Port Jackson, but she refused, stating she would prefer to die among the island people.

The rest of the story regarding Charlotte (after 1807) is rather murky. Some say she lived out her days with the Maori Chieftain bearing him children; others say the Maori turned on her causing her and the child to leave Tonga; and still others place her back in America, having stowed away on another ship. However the story really ends is no matter really, as Charlotte Badger made her mark in history. She was very likely the first European woman to have lived in New Zealand, and certainly one of New Zealand's first women pirate's!

REAL WOMEN PIRATES IN HISTORY

CENTURY NAME ANY INFO. 

16th 

Grace O’Malley, a.k.a. Granuaile 

1500s, Atlantic, commanded three galleys and 200 men. 

16th  

Sida al Hurra 

1510-1542, Morocco 

16th 

Lady Killigrew  

1530-1570, Atlantic 

16th

Mrs. Peter Lambert of Aldeburgh

Suffolk - late 1500s

17th

Elizabetha Patrickson

1634

17th

Jacquotte Delahaye

1650s-1660s, Caribbean buccaneer

17th

Anne Dieu-le-veut

1660s, Caribbean buccaneer

17th

Anne Bonny, aliases Ann Bonn and Fulford, possibly also Sarah Bonny

1719-1720, Caribbean

17th

Mary Read, alias Mark Read

1718-1720, Caribbean

19th

Sadie the Goat

1800s, New York State

19th

Catherine Hagerty

1806, Australia and New Zealand

19th

Margaret Jordan

1809, Canadian East Coast

20th

Cheng I Sao (Ching Yih Saou)

1810s, South China Sea

20th

Lo Hon-cho (Honcho Lo)

Took over command on husband’s death in 1921, was a supporter of the Chinese revolution.

20th

Wong

1922, united her 50 ship fleet with Lo Hon-cho’s 64 junks.

20th

Lai Sho Sz’en (Lai Choi San)

1922-1939, South China Sea, commanded 12 junks

20th

P’en Ch’ih Ch’iko

1936, commanded 100 pirates

20th

Huang P’ei-mei

1937-1950s, leader of 50,000 pirates

20th

Linda

1980s, Philippines

Woman Pirate - ANN BONNY and MARY READ

Arguably the most well known of the women pirates in History, Anne Bonny was born around 1700 in Ireland. Disowned by her father as a young teen, she married James Bonny and the two sailed away to the Bahamas. James worked as a well paid informant there, turning in pirates to the authorities. As James was turning them over to the government, Anne was making them her friends. One friend in particular was Jack Rackam, better known as the pirate "Calico Jack." Jack was a reformed pirate who was given amnesty by the Bohemian governor, who vowed not to prosecute pirates who gave up the pirating life. In 1719, however, Anne and Jack ran off together, and of course jack immediately returned to pirating—this time with Anne at his side. She wore men's clothing so to join the crew on his ship, the Revenge , and was so good at the work, even those crew members who discovered she was a female accepted her as a crew mate.

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After overtaking another ship during a raid and absorbing the crew, Anne found she was not the only female among the male pirates. A woman named Mary Read also had disguised herself as a man to be accepted as a pirate. Mary, born in London in the late 1600s, had been disguised as a man nearly all of her life. Her mother had raised Mary as a boy from birth to keep the family free from poverty. (Mary's father died before she was born, and her brother, the only legal heir, had also died. Back then, only men could inherit wealth, so baby Mary became baby Mark.)

Anne and Mary became close friends, and once Anne knew the truth about Mary, she vowed to keep her secret. Anne's husband, Calico Jack, became uncomfortable with just how close these two had become and demanded of Anne an explanation. Lucky for Mary, Jack was actually relived to find that she was actually a woman and allowed his wife's friend to stay aboard and serve on his ship.

The Revenge was captured by a pirate-hunter while her male crew members were in a drunken state from celebrating two successful raids. When the invasion started these drunken souls retreated and hid below deck. Only Anne and Mary stayed on deck fighting for the ship. The girls were angered by the cowardice of the men and actually shot at them killing one and wounding many of them, including Calico Jack. Despite the women's efforts, the ship and crew was taken captive, tried and sentenced to death in Jamaica. Both women were spared hanging because both were pregnant at the time, delaying their death until after the birth of their children. Mary never faced the gallows: she died in prison of a fever. As for Anne, after the trial her record goes silent. Some say she was hanged later that year after giving birth; that she was given a reprieve; that she gave up the pirates life and became a nun. No one really knows for sure.

The Revenge was captured by a pirate-hunter while her male crew members were in a drunken state from celebrating two successful raids. When the invasion started these drunken souls retreated and hid below deck. Only Anne and Mary stayed on deck fighting for the ship. The girls were angered by the cowardice of the men and actually shot at them killing one and wounding many of them, including Calico Jack. Despite the women's efforts, the ship and crew was taken captive, tried and sentenced to death in Jamaica. Both women were spared hanging because both were pregnant at the time, delaying their death until after the birth of their children. Mary never faced the gallows: she died in prison of a fever. As for Anne, after the trial her record goes silent. Some say she was hanged later that year after giving birth; that she was given a reprieve; that she gave up the pirates life and became a nun. No one really knows for sure.

How Much do You Know About PIRATE TRIVIA?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Is it true that piracy does not exist anymore?
    • False. More than 40 attacks in Indonessia happened in 2006.
    • True. Pirate history is just a bunch of fictional stories.
  2. How did the word "buccaneer" originate?
    • Pirates washed in buckets of rain water.
    • Sailors cooked on open fires called "buccans" and thus the term "buccaneer" was born.
    • The waves would make ships "buck" when storms were coming.
  3. Where does the word "Pirate" come from?
    • It is French (petite') for small.
    • It is Spanish (pireto) for "pack lighty."
    • It is Latin (pirata) for "Attack."
  4. What is the purpose of flying the "Jolly Roger" flag?
    • To claim your place as a pirate among pirates.
    • Showed that you belonged to a pirate crew.
    • To scare intended victims with images of skulls, daggers, crossbones, and cutlesses.
  5. Which male pirate is known for taking the loot and leaving without killing or raping?
    • Red Legs Greaves
    • Captain Jack Sparrow
    • Jolly Roger
  6. Who was the Captain of the ship pirate Mary Read was put to death for serving?
    • Captain Blue Beard
    • Captain George Wallace
    • Captain Calico Jack
  7. What pirate was Captain Calico Jack's lover?
    • Catherine Hagerty
    • Mary Read
    • Anne Bonny
  8. Why was Captain John Rackham called Calico Jack?
    • He had a favorite cat that was calico in color.
    • He wore calico colored clothes.
    • He was from Calico City.
  9. What was "Captain Balckbeard's" real name?
    • James Bonney
    • Edward Teach
    • Ching Shih
  10. What was the name of Long John Silver's parrot?
    • Captain Flint
    • Polly
    • Shiver me timber's

Answer Key

  1. False. More than 40 attacks in Indonessia happened in 2006.
  2. Sailors cooked on open fires called "buccans" and thus the term "buccaneer" was born.
  3. It is Latin (pirata) for "Attack."
  4. To scare intended victims with images of skulls, daggers, crossbones, and cutlesses.
  5. Red Legs Greaves
  6. Captain Calico Jack
  7. Anne Bonny
  8. He wore calico colored clothes.
  9. Edward Teach
  10. Captain Flint

Woman Pirate - CHING SHIH

With many names in tow, Ching Shih—was known as Shi Xainggu, Cheng I Sao, Ching Yih Saou, and Zheng Yi Sao—ruled the South China Sea in the early 19th century, overseeing about 1,800 ships and 80,000 male and female pirates.

She was the commander of the famous Red Flag Fleet of pirates after her husband Cheng Yi, the previous commander and from a long line of pirates, died in 1807; she went on to marry Chang Pao, formerly her husband's right-hand man. This female pirate was ruthless not only to those ships she raided, but to her own crew as well. Should the crew make even a minor error, "off with their head" would likely be the result.

She was also a ruthless business woman. She headed all matters of business personally and in any and all raids her approval was required prior to overtaking any vessel; and the bounty was all to be turned over to her in full. No crew was willing to take a chance at being caught doing otherwise!

The Red Flag Fleet under Ching Shih's rule could not be defeated by any country—not by Chinese officials, not by Portuguese navy, not even by the British; all of whom encountered losses to her pirating ways. But in 1810, amnesty was offered to all pirates, and Ching Shih took advantage of this, negotiating pardons for nearly all of her troops. She retired from pirating with every bit of her ill-gotten loot and ran a gambling house until her death in 1844.

Where is Carlisle, Pennsylvania?

Woman Pirate - RACHEL WALL

Rachel Schmidt was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1760. When she was sixteen she met George Wall. Against her mother's wishes, Rachel married the former privateer who had served in the Revolutionary War. The two moved to Boston where George worked as a fisherman and Rachel as a maid in Beacon Hill. George, whom Rachel's mom had always felt to be a little shady, began socializing with a pretty rough crowd and gambled away what money they had. As things got tougher financially, and lured by his fast-living fisherman friends, George took up the life of a pirate to make ends meet, talking Rachel into joining him.

Together the two stole the ship Essex and began working as pirates off of the Isle of Shoals. Rachel would pretend to be a beautiful brown haired damsel in distress and when ships would come to aide her rescue, George and his men would kill them and take their bounty, and sink their ship. These two and their crew were very successful pirates and looted many ships taking thousands of dollars in cash and valuables. A pirate's life indeed it would seem!

Their devilish plans to take over the weak vessels came to an abrupt end when George and his crew all drowned during a furious storm. Rachel, who really did need rescuing this time, was saved, brought to shore and then taken back to Boston. She spent her days working as a maid, but at night her pirating ways would spring into action. She would sneak aboard ships that were docked in the harbor, breaking into the cabins to steal any and all of the goods she could carry.

Her luck ran out in 1789, when she was accused of robbery. During her trial she admitted to being a pirate, but certainly not one who was a murderess or a thief! She was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. She died on October 8, 1789, as the first and possibly the only woman pirate in all of New England, and the last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read Video History Lesson

More Topics of Interest for Women and Those Who Love Them

Comments for "Women Pirates - Female Pirates of the High Sea in History"

Daisy on January 15, 2013:

Cool it seems woman can be pirates aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!!

epigramman on August 08, 2012:

...this is such an awesome and world class hub subject all of the way - love your passion and intellect as a writer - you are truly a hub treasure and each hub is like a labor of love with so much put into it ..... lake erie time ontario canada 11:11pm listening to the blues under the wane of the full moon over the lake

AuraGem from Victoria, Australia on September 10, 2011:

With the pirate worlds of our times alive and well round African shores, renewed interest in real pirate history seems to be stirring! Great to see that there is a history pirate line for women too! So now I wonder if there are any modern women pirates??????

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 10, 2011:

ThoughtSandwiches~ Firstly, I love our profile image-- Hilarious! Secondly, I am fascinated by pirates and spies myself, even more so if they are women! I sure am pleased that you enjoyed the read, and thanks a bunch for the comments!

Cheers~

K9

ThoughtSandwiches from Reno, Nevada on August 10, 2011:

K9--as a fan of all things "pirate" I loved this article. I am also a fan of all things "spies" so I am looking forward to reading about women spies next! Thanks for the great information!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 03, 2011:

DH~ Once again great minds think alike I see!... Possibly we should check-in with the other prior to placing our efforts in new hubs? ;)

I'm guessing you are already living the pirate life! How much fun is this hub?! Nothing more awesome than a female pirate in my book!

Thanks for your comments.

HubHugs~

K9

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on August 02, 2011:

Thanks for sharing this, you did an awesome job. Again, you 'stole' my idea. Living in NC I see 'pirates' all over the place and thought it'd be a great hub.

Voted up and across-loved the poll! LOL Guess which one I picked.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 01, 2011:

Gus~ Aaaa....this would make you a VERY lucky man indeed! And a man of courage for sure!

HubHugs Gus~

K9

Gustave Kilthau from USA on August 01, 2011:

K9K - Two daughters and one wife. :)

Gus :-)))

Phil Plasma from Montreal, Quebec on August 01, 2011:

Who knew? Thanks for sharing this - I had never heard about these women pirates.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 31, 2011:

Gus~ LOL!! I think you have to be the bravest man I know. Three pirate gals in one lifetime is just too many for one person to endure!...or possibly you are the man these strong willed rogue females keep being attracted too. I don't know about you Gus, you bring many questions to mind my friend! I must say, the fact that you still have your head on your shoulders (assumption of course) speaks volumes to your durability!

Big HubHugs~ ;)

K9

Gustave Kilthau from USA on July 31, 2011:

K9K - "Women pirates in history" my foot! In my own history there have been three of them in my own house. :)

Gus :-)))

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 31, 2011:

Pamela! Thanks for the comments and of course you get my vote! Your work is always among my favorites!

K9

Leslie A. Shields from Georgia on July 31, 2011:

This is truly unique and extremely interesting!!! I only scored 40% on the quiz and I guessed on most of them...This was great for history info and for entertainment...

Thanks

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 31, 2011:

I had no idea there were so many woman pirates. This is a fascinating hub that I really enjoyed. Rated awesome.

I don't know if you have voted in the Tug of War contest this weekend but mine is 1 of the 2 hubs and the race is close. If you haven't voted and deem my hub worthy I would appreciate your vote. Thanks.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on July 31, 2011:

Very interesting. I haven't thought about women pirates but they don't surprise me.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 31, 2011:

Audry,Scribenet, and leann2800~ Thank you for the comments! Female pirates were truly smart, ruthless and survivors in a time of real terror on the high seas. Wouldn't mind having any one of them on my side in a bar fight...not that I go to bars, or fight...anymore...;)

HubHugs!!

K9

leann2800 on July 31, 2011:

Shiver me timbers! I like it :)

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on July 31, 2011:

Great Hub... I was not aware that there were so many female pirates, but I am sure much of it started out of necessity especially being disguised as men to make a better livlihood! No doubt they had to be ruthless to be able to survive in such a crowd! Fascinating!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 31, 2011:

Very interesting~ I'll bet they were smarter pirates than men, too!!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on July 31, 2011:

Becca Luck~ I just completed a hub about women spies and it caused my interest to shift to what other amazing and somewhat surprising adventures history may be hiding about women. And so female pirates came to mind~ Thanks for the comments and for stopping by for a read.

Happy Hubbing!

K9

Becca Luck from Manchester on July 31, 2011:

Interesting hub - although I'm not the least surprised about there having been female pirates. Especially in the case of Rachel Wall, pretending to be a damsel in distress. What made you research and write this?