The famous female pirates who frightened the Caribbean

The famous female pirates who frightened the Caribbean


While piracy was predominantly a male occupation, a minority of pirates were women, and they demonstrated that they can do it just as well with a tumultuous and dangerous life. In order to break away from the limitations imposed by Bartholomew Roberts’s famous Pirate Code of Conduct, the girls dressed and acted like men.

Perhaps the most feared and notorious female pirates have operated in the 18th century, in the Caribbean; these island is especially loved by sailors. Two of them were Anne Bonny and Mary Read, maybe the only ones whose pirate activities were as impressive as the major raids conducted by their much more famous male counterparts. Let’s see who these women were.

Anne Bonny was born in Ireland, County Cork, as the illegitimate daughter of lawyer William Cork and his servant woman. She and her parents immigrated to America at the end of the seventeenth century and settled on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina.

Her father became rich by stock trading and he hoped Anne would help him in business. She was a temperamental, courageous, strong, and very rebellious young woman; Anne elopes with her lover, James Bonny, against her father’s will. James, a wicked small-time pirate, took his wife to a pirate’s hideout in New Provence, Bahamas. It seems that rebellion and uncertain and adventurous life are in line with her unconventional assertion needs.

But in 1718, when many pirates received a King’s Pardon (Royal prerogative of mercy) from Woodes Rogers, Royal Governor of The Bahamas, James Bonny became an informant for the governor. Anne was disgusted and disappointed, so she left her husband.

Later, she will meet Jack Rackham (Calico Jack) and fall in love with him. She disguised herself as a man, accompanying Rackham on a sloop called Vanity and under the protection and guidance of the famous skull-and-crossed-daggers flag, she dedicated herself to preying, attacking the Spanish ships.

The only time she renounces piracy is when she gives birth; once she had given birth, she returned to a life of piracy, earning her place in history by becoming known as one of the fiercest female pirates ever to sail the seas.

Mary Read was born in Plymouth, England, around 1690. Her mother had married a sailor who had gone on a long journey and he never returned. His pregnant wife gives birth to a diseased son who dies shortly after the birth of his illegitimate half sister, Mary. For years she awaits her husband in vain.

When the money ran out, she decided to seek financial support from her late husband’s mother, in London. Knowing that the old woman despised girls, she had decided to disguise Mary as her dead son in order to receive money from his paternal grandmother. And the woman helped them. Mary was 13 when the elder woman died, but the young girl continued to dress as a boy.

In her adolescence she became a footman at the court of a wealthy French woman; but she gave up quickly, as she was more and more drawn into war-related preoccupations. According to chronicles, she began to develop her mind in a very masculine way. She enlisted in an infantry regiment in Flanders and soon transferring to the cavalry.

She even won military distinctions. Mary revealed her true identity when she fell in love with a comrade, a Flemish soldier, who later became her husband. The couple opened an inn near Breda Castle in The Netherlands. Unfortunately the husband died young and Mary’s wealth has diminished rapidly.

Mary Read and Anne Bonny, in love with piracy

Mary was perfectly aware that it was much easier to be a man than a woman in the epoch, so she went back to living as a man and started a new chapter of her life, this time going to sea on a Dutch merchant ship heading to the Caribbean.

During one of the voyages, the ship was captured by English pirates with whom she sailed and fought until they accepted the King’s pardon in 1718, then operating as privateers. The winnings were not as high; as a result, ship raids were more and more frequent. For the time being, Mary is pleased with the subordination to the kingdom and Captain Rogers, headquartered in Providence.

Soon afterwards, riots are taking place on their ship. Moreover, the ship was overtaken by Captain Jack Rackham, Anne Bonney’s husband and bored of the legitimate life, she again turned pirate.

She often confessed that she terribly hates this way of living, but it was the only way of life that could give her freedom, the ability to maintain herself without appealing to anyone and to do justice by her own, more than justice itself would do. Mary meets Anne, and they quickly discovered that both have similar destinies, choosing transvestite to ensure their survival and fame in a men’s world, so they became close friends.

The captain also find out about Mary’s true gender as he suspected Anne of having an affair with the “pirate”, who was forced to confess. Impressed by the girl’s strength, Calico Jack keeps this secret.
Despite her tough exterior, Mary has an affair with one of the prisoners of the crew is said to have saved his life by protecting him from a threatened duel.

She picked a fight with his opponent, revealing her military abilities. He was a mannered artist who rekindled so hard the from her heart, that two hours before her lover to attend the duel, she challenged the enemy to fight, for him not to die nor to be accused of cowardice. The gesture definitely seals the love of the two.

Both Anne and Mary were famous for their violent tempers, their excellent fighting abilities and ferocious character, and they shared a reputation as “fierce hell cats.” Their fellow crew members knew that in times of action no one else was as ruthless and bloodthirsty as these two women were.

More ruthless and thirsty than many of the pirates. Captain Jack was quite famous in those times, but that was primarily because of these two infamous women pirates on his crew. The two were a mixture of manhood and femininity: strong and martial on the one hand, capable of the deepest emotions and behavior guided by principles, despite their tumultuous lifestyle. Piracy did not exclude morality and integrity.

In October 1720, an unfortunate event took place. Rackkam’s ship was anchored off Point Negril, Jamaica, the pirates celebrating recent victories in their typical hard-drinking tradition. But the party is suddenly curtailed by the British Navy sloop, Albion, headed by Captain Jonathan Barnet.

The drunken male pirates quickly hid below deck, leaving only Anne and Mary to defend their ship. The girls yelled at their pirate mates to come and fight like men, and then angrily raged against them. the women were eventually overwhelmed by the British Navy, and the entire crew was captured and taken to Jamaica to stand trial.

Captain Jack and the male members of his crew were tried on November 16, 1720, and were sentenced to hang. Anne was allowed to visit her lover in his cell before his execution, and instead of the consoling, loving words he was undoubtedly expecting, her scathing comments live on throughout history: “Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog”.

Anne and Mary were tried one week after Rackham’s death and were also found guilty. Both were pregnant, and since British law forbade killing an unborn child, their sentences were stayed temporarily. What happened with the famous female pirates remains a mystery.

Mary is said to have died of fever in prison in 1721, before the birth of her child. Other reports say she feigned death and was sneaked out of the prison. With regard to Anne, no record of her execution has ever been found.

Some say that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of her child and she settled down to a quiet family life on a small Caribbean island. Others believe that she lived out her life in the south of England, owning a tavern where she regaled the locals with tales of her exploits.

And, in a slightly more romantic style, some say that Anne and Mary moved to Louisiana where they raised their children together and were friends to the ends of their lives.

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