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Female Pirates – Five of the Fiercest

The majority of pirate costumes that you see in fairs and Cosplay events are men’s costumes. So, is this lack of women’s pirate costumes a sign that piracy was a male-exclusive domain? The short answer is no. Men dominated but there were some female buccaneers who inspired the same terror as their male counterparts. The following are five of the most famous women pirates in history.

Grace O’Malley

During the 16th century, when most women were not allowed education and some could not even venture outside their homes, Grace O’Malley led a 20-ship fleet against the British monarchy. In the 1560s, O’Malley plundered English and Spanish shipping vessels much like her family had done before her. She also once famously met with the English Queen Elizabeth I requesting that her captured sons be released. When O’Malley felt that the queen did not uphold her side of the deal entirely, the buccaneer went back to rebelling against the English, till her death in 1603. 

Grace O'Malley

Source: https://historywitch.com/

Anne Bonny

Born an illegitimate daughter to a rich Irish lawyer, Anne Bonny moved to America and married a sailor in 1718.  She soon abandoned her husband as she fell in love with the famous buccaneer “Calico” Jack Rackham. Bonny quickly saw that she could handle a pistol and cutlass with aplomb. She struck a friendship with another famous female pirate Mary Read and the two started targeting trading sloops and small fishing boats. Her adventure ended in 1720 when pirate hunters captured Calico Jack and many of his crew.  The men were executed, but Bonny and Read were spared as they were both pregnant.

Source: https://piratesbrewcoffee.net/

Mary Read

Mary Read was a contemporary of Anne Bonny and much like the latter spent most of her youth masquerading as a boy; in her case, she disguised herself as her half-brother to scam the boy’s grandmother. She took on the name of Mark Read and worked traditionally male jobs, first as a soldier and then a sailor. In the late 1710s, a ship she was working on was attacked by pirates who took her in. Later, she worked on Calico Jack’s ship where she met and befriended Anne Bonny. Read sailed with Jack for a few months and garnered quite a reputation at that time, particularly when she fought fiercely with pirate hunters who attacked their boat in October 1720. Calico Jack and some of his crew were captured and executed. Read was spared as she was pregnant, but later died in prison.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/

Rachel Wall

Rachel Wall was born around 1760 in Pennsylvania. When she was a teenager, Wall ran away from home and later married a fisherman named George Wall. Fearing poverty, Wall and her husband formed a small gang in 1781 and operated a scam in New England, which involved pretending that their ship was ravaged by a storm and then robbing and killing their rescuers. Within a year, they had killed 24 sailors and collected loot worth $6,000. However, in 1782, a storm actually did destroy their ship and killed her husband. She continued thieving on land before being caught and jailed in 1789. Wall confessed to all her crimes, except murder but was sentenced to death and executed.

Cheng I Sao

Cheng I Sao worked in a brothel before marrying a powerful Chinese pirate named Cheng I in 1801. The couple soon raised a formidable pirate army with around 50,000 men and hundreds of ships. Fishing vessels and coastal villages of Southern China were mercilessly targeted. Following her husband’s death in 1807, Cheng I Sao forced herself into power and took the terror a few notches higher, plundering across Southeast Asia with an army big enough to match some countries’ naval power. She became the Chinese government’s number one enemy, so much so that in 1810 the Portuguese and British navies were enlisted to bring the pirate down.  Cheng I Sao smartly surrendered her fleet in exchange for the right to keep her loot. She retired to run a gambling house until she died in 1844 at the age of 69.

Source: https: //harrietdumont.wordpress.com/

We at Costumes and Collectibles do not want the ladies to take up piracy for real, but we will encourage them to check out our excellent range of women’s pirate costumes and pirate accessories. These are perfect for cosplays, fairs and Halloween. Do let us know what you think.


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