Lady Pirates Ahoy!

Alas, Mickey O’Connor the hero of Scandalous Desires and a fierce river pirate, never ran into any lady pirates.

This is a cautionary tale about the perils of raising your daughter as a boy. Such a fate befell Mary Read when she was born sometime in 1690–there is speculation that her mother was trying to con her grandmother out of money by passing Mary off as a son.   In any case, Mary ran away to sea at thirteen–posing as a man–and then topped that by joining the army.  She had a boring phase in her late teens when she married a fellow soldier and for a short period of time decided to live life as a woman and wife.  But soon her husband died and Mary threw over her petticoats for a pair of breeches.   

Attired once again as a man she sailed off to the West Indies and to her destiny. For it was there in the exotic New World that her ship was attacked by pirates and Mary found her true calling in life. The pirate captain was one Calico Jack and as it turned out, he already had a woman pirate on board. This was his lover, Anne Bonney.   Supposedly Anne discovered Mary’s disguise when she tried to seduce the young “man.”

Mary joined Calico Jack’s crew and soon the two women pirates were fast friends–or possibly more.  They were well known for their fighting abilities and their bloodthirstiness. Legend has it that when the ship was attacked by British forces, the male crewmembers hid below deck while only Mary and Anne defended the ship, crying to their mates, “Come up, you cowards, and fight like men!”

Alas, Mary and Anne were overwhelmed and the pirate crew was sent to trial. In some versions of their story, both women were spared the hangman because they were pregnant.  Mary may or may not have died in a childbed fever in jail.  Anne’s end is even murkier.  She appears to have disappeared without a trace . . .

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