Saturday, June 11, 2011

Women and the Jolly Roger

The Articles of Agreement that pirates swore an oath to uphold often included a ban on women aboard their ships. After all, "women were weak, feckless, hysterical beings who distracted men and brought bad luck to ships, calling forth supernatural winds that sank vessels and drowned men.” (Cordingly, Women Sailors and Sailors’ Women

Historical records provide evidence that women did go to sea -- sometimes as pirates or sailors. While Anne Bonny and Mary Read [illustrated here] were perhaps the most famous women pirates, others of equal or lesser renown included Alwida, Grace O'Malley and Cheng I Sao.

In order for a woman to succeed in her new persona, she had to do more than don a disguise. She had to adopt the mannerisms common to men ... fighting, carousing, swearing, walking and dressing as the men did. Getting aboard a ship disguised as a man wasn’t that difficult in the Age of Sail. A sailor’s clothes easily disguised a woman’s shape and mariners wore their hair long, tied in a pigtail and tarred.  Petticoat-breeches and the baggy shirt worn under a jacket easily hid her curves, especially if she bound her breasts. Sailors rarely removed their clothes and the only time a doctor insisted they undress was to treat their wounds.

Billy Bridle, a daring sailor who served aboard a vessel for two years, challenged a shipmate to climb the highest mast. The mate was reluctant, but finally agreed to the challenge. Soon after he climbed down, Billy followed, but burned his hands as he slid down the topgallant halyards.  Twenty feet above the deck, Billy lost his grip, fell to the deck and died. Not until the inquest did anyone discover Billy was actually Rachel Young.

Taking care of bodily functions posed a more challenging problem, but not an impossible one.  Some affixed a tube inside their breeches to appear to urinate as a man when they went to the head. Since many sailors contracted venereal diseases, they wouldn’t have thought anything strange about a sailor bleeding. It was a common complaint. As for having her period, there’s a good chance she ceased menstruating from the poor food and strenuous exercise of working aboard a wooden ship. Since she didn’t shave, men just assumed she hadn’t gone through puberty yet.

Furling and unfurling sails, working the pumps and capstan, rowing boats and a myriad of other tasks requiring hard labor wouldn’t have been a problem for most working-class women of the seventeen and eighteenth centuries. Even as women living ashore they worked long hours and did physically demanding chores. If she were strong and able, a woman was capable of doing sailors’ work.

It took a remarkable woman to assume a male persona and carry it off successfully. Why would any woman choose to do so? Perhaps because she wished to earn her way in life without prostituting herself and to keep her wages instead of having to relinquish them to her husband or father. She could learn a trade forbidden to women. As a man, she had rights, unlike a woman who had few if any rights under the law. As long as men believed her to be one of them, they treated her as a man. As soon as her true identity was discovered, she was no longer taken seriously and had to return home to mind her place.

While an untold number of accounts of male pirates and warriors exist, the same isn’t true of  women who donned male attire and changed their names. Many pirates were illiterate as were the majority of the lower classes. Women would have been doubly so, for educating them was seen as folly.

Pirates, who kept journals or diaries, rarely mention women, “except as victims of men.” In spite of this dearth of primary documentation, we know women became pirates, sailors and soldiers.  As Mary Livermore, a Sanitary Commission agent, wrote in 1888 about disguised women who fought in the Civil War:

“Some one has stated the number of women soldiers …as little less than four hundred. I cannot vouch for the correctness of this estimate, but I am convinced that a larger number of women disguised themselves and enlisted … than was dreamed of.  Entrenched in secrecy, and regarded as men, they were sometimes revealed as women, by accident or casualty. Some startling histories of these military women were current in the gossip of army life; and extravagant and unreal as were many of the narrations, one always felt that they had a foundation in fact.”

The same was probably true of women pirates throughout history. Some disguised their sex.  Others did not. Some achieved notoriety in their lifetimes. Most, however, disappeared without anyone being the wiser. 

The list of women pirates numbers approximately 40. Some are real and others are of legend. But each seemed to have one real reason for becoming a pirate or privateer. Escape ... e
scape from prostitution, poverty, oppression, arranged marriages, servitude and more. Each was determined to live their lives the way they chose ... not by the laws, conventions and standards of their time.

VIDEO ~ My Jolly Sailor Bold

Friday, June 10, 2011

Early Pirates

Queen Teuta
Queen Teuta of Illyra
Years Active: 232-228 BC
Country of Origin: Illyra
Comments: Adriatic Sea

Elissa ~ "Dido"
Years Active: 470 BC
Country of Origin: Mediterranean
 Comments: Legendary founder of Carthage

Ch’iao K’uo Fuu Jeen
Years Active: 600 BC
Country of Origin: Chinese
Comments: Possibly Mythical

Queen Artemisia
Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus
Years Active: 480 BC
Country of Origin: Mediterranean

Viking Age & Medieval Pirates

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegan Viking
Comments: Fought against her brother Thrond for the thrones of both Denmark and Norway. Possibly fictional. Recorded in Saxo Grammaticus’ Gesta Danoram (History of the Danes). Johannes Steenstrup linked her to the Ingean Ruadh (Red Maid) of Irish folklore.

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegian Viking
Comments: Sister of Rusila. Became a pirate to avoid marriage. Recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Years Active:
Country of Origin: Norwegian Viking
Comments: Leader of a group of male and female pirates. Also recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Princess Sela
Years Active: c. 420 AD
Country of Origin: Norwegian
Comments: Sister of Koller, king of Norway. Horwendil (later to be father of Amleth/Hamlet) was kind of Jutland but gave up the throne to become a pirate. Koller “deemed it would be a handsome deed” to kill the pirate and sailed to find the pirate fleet. Horwendil killed Koller but had to later kill Sela, who was a skilled warrior and experienced pirate, to end the war. Recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

Wigbiorg, Hetha & Wisna
Years Active: c. 800s AD Century AD
Country of Origin: Norwegian Vikings
Comments: All three are listed in the Gesta Danorum as sea captains. Wigbiorg died in battle, Hetha became queen of Zealand and Wisna lost a hand in a duel.

Alvilda ~ alias Alfhild, Aelfhild, Alwilda, Awilda
Years Active: Post 850 AD. Often wrongly dated to 450 AD.
Country of Origin: Swedish Viking
Comments: There is some doubt of Alvilda's actual existence, in fact, the date of her reign cannot be verified. Much of what is known is based on the verbal retelling by bards in the Viking halls:

The story starts with Alvilda rejecting her suitor, Prince Alf (son of King Sigarus or Sigar of Denmark). There is a difference of opinion on how her rejection took place: Some say Prince Alf successfully entered Alvilda's room by besting her 'guard snakes'. Since he was able to pass this feat, he’d win the hand of Alvilda should she agree. The other version of the rejection is that Alvilda's father set up an arranged marriage with Prince Alf, which the princess rejected. Either way, instead of marrying the prince, she fled her home with women recruits who did not want to marry.

Alvilda's recruits soon ran into some mourners who had lost their captain. Alvilda took command of this crew and took up piracy. With a group double in size, she became a menace to the shipping community and her thievery alerted the law around the Danish coast. Prince Alf, who was unaware the pirates were commanded by his bethrothed, attacked the pirate ship. Eventually the prince's crew boarded the ship and killed most of the pirates. When Alvilda was taken to the prince, he recognized her and proposed marriage. She accepted, quit piracy and eventually became Queen of Denmark.

Years Active: c. 870 AD
Country of Origin: Viking
Comments: Ladgerda is the inspiration for Hermintrude in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Aethelflaed ~ alias The Lady of the Mercias (872-918)
Years Active: 911-918
Country of Origin: English
Comments: Eldest daughter of Alfred the Great of England. Became the military leader of the Anglo-Saxons after her husband’s death in battle against the Danes in 911. Took command of the fleets to rid the seas of the Viking raiders.

14th Century Pirates

Jane de Belleville ~ alias Jeanne de Montfort, Jeanne de Clisson, Jane de Belleville, "The Flame" and "The Lionesss of Brittany"
Years Active: 1343
Country of Origin: French

A French noblewoman who turned against her country when her beloved husband was executed by the French as a spy. With vengeance in her heart, she sided with the English in the 1345 invasion of Brittany. Seeking to enter the fray herself, she purchased and prepared three ships with money from the sale of her possessions. She was a ruthless mistress of revenge at sea and on land, and no ship or town near the coast of Normandy was safe from her wrath. With a flaming torch in one hand and a sword in the other, she must have been a fearsome sight to behold, as she burned whole Norman villages to the ground.

16th Century Pirates

The meeting of Gráinne Ní Mháille &
Queen Elizabeth I
Grace O'Malley ~ alias Granuaile, Granny Wale, Grana Weil, Graun'ya Uaile, Granuaile, "Queen of the West," "The Great Sea Pirate" & Gráinne Ni Mháille
Years Active: 1500s
Country of Origin: Atlantic
Comments: Commanded three galleys and 200 men.

The famed "Pirate Queen of Connacht" was one of the most recognized pirates and her story is legendary. There’s a mix of history and myth in the legend of the Irish noblewoman who led a band of 200 sea-raiders from the coast of Galway.
Grace was born at sea in 1530. Her parents (clan chieftain Dudara "Black Oak" and noblewoman Margaret O'Malley) were both seafarers, combining legal activities with piracy. Grace grew up on Clare Island, off the coast of Country Mayo, Ireland. It’s here where, as a young girl, she decided to stop a brood of eagles that were carrying sheep off to their cliff dwelling. Grace climbed the cliff and slaughtered the birds, though not before the eagle talons deeply gashed her forehead. This left scars which remained her entire life. Soon after this feat, her father began training her as a warrior both on land and sea and Grace began wearing her hair short as a man's. In fact, "Granuaile" means 'bald'.
After her father's death, Grace took command of his fleets and castles. She soon began her own piracy, 'waging a private war against England.' The Queen of England put a price on her head and tried to take one of her castles, but could not. Grace's fleet was so large, the Queen didn’t dare attack them and retreated.
Grace went through two husbands and gave birth to several children. After her second husband died she found herself without lands or financial support, as Irish law did not guarantee a wife could inherit her husband’s land. She began raiding the English holdings nearby which incurred the wrath of Sir Richard Bingham, the Governor of the province, who had her fleet impounded in 1593.
Grace felt this was unjust and appealed to Queen Elizabeth I by letter and again in person when Bingham arrested her son. She asked the Queen to release her fleet and give her an annual stipend to live on for the rest of her days … this, she claimed, was so she could give up piracy. She also vowed to fight the Queen’s enemies. No record was made of the meeting although there are many stories and poems of the encounter. It did occur, however, since the Queen wrote to Bingham asking him to do as Grace wished. Bingham kept the ships impounded until he was replaced by his successor. Grace’s son took over the fleet, and was as loyal to the Crown as his mother. He was made Viscount Mayo in 1627.
Grace continued her piracy well into her sixties. It was said that during one of her later raids against a Spanish vessel, the Spanish took one look at her and dropped their weapons. She was noted to be on board in her nightgown, her grey hair loose and her scars very noticeable. She was holding a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other. She died in 1603.

Sayyida al Hurra
Years Active: 1510-1542
Country of Origin: Moroccan
Comments: Allied with the Turkish corsair Barbaros of Algiers. al Hurra controlled the western Mediterranean Sea while Barbaros controlled the eastern. Also prefect of Tétouan. In 1515 she became the last person in Islamic history to legitimately hold the title of “al Hurra” or Queen following the death of her husband who ruled Tétouan. She later married the King of Morocco, Ahmed al-Wattasi, but refused to leave Tétouan to do so. This marriage is the only time in Morrocan history a King has married away from the capital Fez. *al Hurra is also the name of an American Arab language pirate radio station used as a counter to al Jazeera.

The Red Lady (1500-1534)
Years Active: 1528-1534
Country of Origin: English
Comments: One of the most cunning pirates of the sixteenth century who never revealed her identity. She commonly disguised herself as a singer or an entertainer to be brought on ships and once the crew ever advance on her or leave her by herself she would take her disguise off having a top, pants and her weapons underneath. She would then immediately kill all aboard the ship and sail to sea.

Mary Killigrew
Lady Mary Killigrew
Years Active: 1530-1570
Country of Origin: English, Atlantic

Mary was the daughter of a former Suffolk pirate. Her husband, Sir Henry Killigrew, was a former pirate himself and was made a Vice-Admiral by Queen Elizabeth I. He was tasked with suppressing piracy. Whenever her husband went to sea Mary engaged in piracy using the staff of her castle (Arwenack Castle in Cornwall) as crew and possibly with the Queen's knowledge. In 1570 she captured a German merchant ship off Falmouth and her crew sailed it to Ireland to sell. However, the owner of this ship was a friend of Queen Elizabeth, who had Lady Mary arrested and brought to trial at the Launceston assizes. Some sources say she was sentenced to death and then pardoned by the Queen but this is due to confusion with another family member. According to sources, her family either bribed the jurors and she was acquitted or Queen Elizabeth arranged a short jail sentence. Whatever transpired, she gave up pirating and took up fencing stolen goods until she died several years later.

Lady Elizabeth Killigrew
Years Active: 1570s-1582
Country of Origin: English

Elizabeth and her husband Sir John lived in Pendennis Castle in Falmouth Harbour. In early 1581 a Spanish ship, the Marie of San Sebastian was blown down Channel by a storm and was forced, dismasted, to take refuge in Falmouth Harbour. Lady Elizabeth led an attack on the ship and then fenced the proceeds. She was later arrested and sentenced to death but pardoned. Sir John was ordered by the Privy Council to restore the vessel and goods to their owners but went into hiding along with the ship which resulted in several warrants for his arrest being issued for acts of piracy committed over the next eight years. It is possible that Lady Elizabeth did not actually board the vessel herself, so it might be incorrect to describe her as a pirate.

17th Century Pirates

Elizabeth Patrickson
Years Active: 1634
Country of Origin: English

Jacquotte Delahaye
Years Active: 1650s-1660s
Country of Origin:
Comments: Caribbean pirate. Also known as “Back from the Dead Red” due to her red hair and return to piracy after faking her own death and hiding dressed as a man for several years.

Anne Dieu-le-Veut ~ alias Marie-Anne & Marianne (ca. 1650-)
Years Active: 1660s-1704
Country of Origin: French
Comments: Caribbean buccaneer and later based in Mississippi after Tortuga was closed down. Dieu-Le-Veut was a nickname meaning “God wills it” and given to her as it seemed anything she wanted God gave her. Married to a pirate, Ann challenged pirate Laurens de Graaf to a duel after he killed her husband in 1683. He refused and she became his common law wife, fighting by his side and sharing command.

18th Century Pirates

Maria Lindsey & Eric Cobham
Years Active: Early 1700s
Country of Origin:
Comments: Possibly a fictional pirate operating on the Canadian east Coast.

Maria was born in Plymouth, England in the 18th century. She was the wife of the ruthless pirate Captain Eric Cobham. When they met he told her about his profession, with all the gory details; she was enchanted and married himnext day.

She left her hometown and joined his pirate crew. They sailed to the Americas where they made most of their wealth. "Murder for her was not merely a business necessity in the pirate trade; it was a pleasure and a sport" (De Pauw). An example of her 'pleasure' was to tie the captain and two mates of a plundered ship to her ship's windlass and used these men for target practice. Both also followed a policy of leaving no survivors.

After 20 years of plundering and murder, the Cobhams decided to retire from piracy in France. They had two sons and a daughter and settled so well into the community that Eric was asked to take the place of the late local magistrate, making him a judge! This life was hard for Maria Cobham to adjust to and she committed suicide ... by drinking poison and throwing herself into the sea. Her body washed ashore two days later. Eric Cobham was conscience-striken. He wrote out a detailed confession of his past life and frequented the local church. He gave the confession to the local pastor and made him promise to publish it after his death. The pastor agreed against the wishes of the Cobham family. The family tried to purchase every single copy of the published confession they could lay their hands on.

Charlotte de Berry
Years Active: 1700s
Country of Origin: England

Charlotte de Berry was born in 1636 in England. She was one of the few female pirates who had been successful and were famous. When she was a teenager, she fell in love with a young man who was a sailor but her parents were not in favour of their marriage.

Despite the opposition, she married him. Berry dressed as a man joined the English navy with her husband posing to be his brother. She was forced onto the ship to the Africa.
After a few days of pretending to be a man, an officer on board came to know that she in fact was a woman. He however did not reveal her truth as he wanted Berry. All his attempts to get her husband out of his way were unsuccessful. He then charged her husband of muntiny. He was found guilty and was flogged around the ship which eventually killed him.

The officer made advances towards Berry after her husband died. She killed him in order to stop his advances and started working on the dock dressed as a woman. There she was seen by a captain of a merchant ship who kidnapped her and forcefully married her and took her to Africa.

Once on board, she was successful in convincing the crew members for a revolt against him. She then killed the captain and became the captain of his ship. In this way, Berry started her pirating career and plundered ships on the African coast. 
After some years of looting ships, she fell in love with a Spanish man and married him. This marriage also did not last for a long time as their ship had been destroyed by a storm.
They were able to survive without food or water for some days but all of them were too hungry to stay like this. It was decided that they would draw lots and one who looses will give his life for others to feed on him. Unfortunately, Berry's husband was the first victim.

However, soon they were rescued by Dutch merchant ship. The merchant ship was attacked by pirates and Berry and her crew defended the ship. It is said that when everyone was busy celebrating the victory, Berry jumped into the sea to join her deceased husband. It is a mystery whether she survived or not.

Ingela Gathenhielm (1692-1729)
Years Active: 1710-1721
Country of Origin: Swedish
Comments: Baltic pirate. Wife and partner of legendary pirate Lars Gathenhielm. Took sole control following his death in 1718.

Anne Bonny ~ born Anne Cormac, alias Ann Bonn, Ann Fulford, possibly Sarah Bonny (1698-1782)
Years Active: 1719-1720
Country of Origin: Irish
Comments: Caribbean pirate.

Anne as born in Ireland (around 1700-1705), the daughter of lawyer William Cormac and his wife's maid, Peg Brennan. She grew up as a wild child, riding and shooting as well or better than boys her age.
Her father tried to have Anne dress as a boy to pass her off as a law clerk, however this attempt failed and Cormac lost his law practice due to the scandal. He left the country with Peg and Anne and moved to Charleston, SC. He again prospered as a lawyer and made enough to purchase a plantation. Shortly after its purchase, Anne's mother died and Anne became mistress of the house. Her father had high hopes for Anne to marry a 'well to do' gentleman, but Anne chose a penniless sailor. As a result, her father disinherited her.
Anne went to the Bahamas with her husband but left him for the pirate captain John Rackham, aka “Calico Jack”. Rackham tried to buy Anne from her husband, who adamantly refused and reported her to the governor. The governor threatened to flog Anne if she did not return to her husband. She refused and joined Rackham's crew, beginning her career in piracy.

After giving birth to Rackham’s child at their refuge in Cuba, she returned to him and the sea. This is when "Mark Read" joined their crew. Anne, being a bit flirtatious, made passes him whereupon "he" confessed to being Mary Read ... a woman. Anne kept Mary's secret and the two became friends. In the meantime, Rackham assumed Anne was having an affair and went into a rage, threatening to kill 'Anne's lover'. Anne divulged Mary's secret and the conflict passed.

Mary Read ~ alias Mark Read (c. 1690-1720)
Years Active: 1718-1720
Country of Origin: English

Mary was born in England around 1685. Shortly after her birth, an older "legitimate" brother had died. Out of financial necessity, her mother began dressing and treating Mary as a boy; her husband was lost at sea and she hoped to pass Mary off as the dead son in order to receive a monthly stipend from her husband's wealthy family. They fooled the husband's mother and received funds until her death.

Mary was 13 years old at the time and needed to earn a living. Since she was so accustomed to 'playing the boy' she was able to find a job as a "footman" for a French Lady. She later joined the navy as a cabin boy, switching to the Flemish army to fight as an infantryman. Though she was able to make a name for herself in the army, she was unable to receive an officer's commission (since she did not have any 'wealthy friends' to recommend her). So she left the army and joined the cavalry where once again she was well achieved.

She fell in love with the trooper she bunked with and began to show her affection for him by being overly concerned for his safety. This 'concern' became the talk of their regiment. She eventually confessed she was a woman with feelings for him and learned he felt the same way. They became engaged and married once the regiment went into winter quarters. Due to the awkwardness of the situation, their regiment persuaded them both to resign and assisted the newlyweds in opening a tavern (some have said it was in the Netherlands while other reports say it was in Belgium or Holland).

Unfortunately Mary's husband soon died and business was failing. After a quick return to the army, Mary decided to board a ship for America. This ship was captured by English pirates who let her live since she agreed to join their crew. This began her life as a pirate.

She soon took up with Captain John Rackham, aka Calico Jack. After joining this crew, Mary fell in love with one Rackham's men. She announced her womanhood to this man and the two exchanged formal vows. As with her first husband, she was very protective of him. He quarreled with another member of his crew and, according to pirate law, a duel was called for once on shore. Afraid her husband would be killed, Mary picked a fight with the same pirate and set the time 2 hours before her husband's assigned duel. She killed the man immediately.

In 1720, off the coast of Jamaica, Mary was captured with the rest of Rackham's crew in 1720 by Captain Jonathan Barnet. At the age of 36, Mary and her unborn child died in prison of fever.

The Capture & Trial of Anne Bonny & Mary Read

October 1720 ~ An armed sloop sent by the governor of Jamaica trapped and boarded the pirate ship of Calico Jack. All but three pirate members fled below deck (it was said that most were drunk or hung-over). Bonny, Read and one man continued to resist the capture. Read was ashamed of the cowardice of her crewmates and tried to goad them into defending themselves. She even fired into the hold where she killed one pirate and wounded several others.

Read, Bonny and the one man was unable to hold off the law, so all pirates were captured and taken prisoner. Mary's husband was acquitted since he was able to prove that he had joined under compulsion. However, both Read and Bonny were convicted and sentenced to be hanged with the other captives. They 'pleaded their belly' since both were pregnant. Unfortunately, Mary and her unborn child died in prison of fever. Anne, however, gave birth to her child which was followed by several execution reprieves. This is where there are no more official records. She was not hanged and she did not die in prison. At the time of her trial she was not yet 20 years old. It’s possible her father was able to help her escape as well as continue the reprieves.

There is some conjecture that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of the child. Anne's child, born five months after the trial, on April 21, 1721, was named John Cormac Bonny. John Rackham seems to have been listed as the illegitimate child's father. After the child's birth the mother and child returned to Virginia via South Carolina. There are some records that imply she married a Joseph Burleigh there in 1721. It’s guessed this marriage was arranged by Anne's father to get her started with a clean slate when she returned (one can only imagine the dowry required to get a man to marry a woman reputed to be such a wildcat). Anne gave birth to eight more children with her husband, three of whom died young. She’s said to have died on April 25, 1782 (which would have put her age at somewhere around 70-80) and was buried in a place called Sweethaven (possibly in York County, Virginia).

Mary Cricket or Crichett
Years Active: 1728
Country of Origin:
Comments: In 1728, Mary Crickett and Edmund Williams were transported to the colony of Virginia as felons. In 1729, along with four other men, they were convicted of piracy and hung.
Flora Burn
Years Active: 1741 or 1751
Country of Origin:
Comments: Operated on the East Coast of North America.

Sarah Bishop
Years Active: 1778-1780
Country of Origin: New York, USA
Comments: Forced to join the crew of a British privateer during the Revolutionary War.

Rachel Schmid-Wall (1670-1789)
Years Active: 1780s
Country of Origin:
Comments: Thought to be the first American female pirate.

Born in 1760 in Carlisle, PA Rachel married George Wall at the age of 16. He was a former privateer who served in the Revolutionary War. The newlyweds moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a maid and George as a sailor on a fishing schooner.

Soon after, George suggested to five sailors/friends that they take up piracy. They had all been privateers and accepted. George also asked Rachel to join them, which she did. They used a friend's fishing schooner and paid for it's use with part of the loot. Disguised as a fishing boat, they would ply the waters off Boston when a storm hit, putting out distress signals to lure ships to their doom.

Once a ship stopped to help them, its crew was attacked and killed. The loot would be transferred over to the "fishing boat" and the aided ship would be sunk to make it appear it had sunk due to the storm. This scheme worked well until 1782, when George Wall made a miscalculation regarding a storm. Their schooner was caught in the storm and George and his crewmen were swept overboard and drowned. Rachel was rescued and taken to Boston where she went back to her old job as a servant.

So used to robbery, Rachel continued her trade by stealing from seafarers while they slept upon their ships. She would board a ship and steal from the captain's head while the captain was sleeping. In 1789 she was arrested and convicted of a murder. She confessed to her crimes of piracy and stealing, but insisted she never murdered anyone. This did not sway the judge; Rachel was hanged October 8, 1789.

19th Century Pirates

Charlotte Badger & Catherine Hagerty
Years Active: 1806
Country of Origin: Australian
Comments: Widely considered to be the first Australian female pirates.

Catherine is described as the more attractive of the pair, being blonde and fresh complexioned; while Chalotte is described as fat with light hair. It is assumed that both were being transported to the penal colonies in and around Australia; Charlotte as a London pickpocket, Catherine for an unknown crime.
Shipped first to Port Jackson and from there departed for Hobart Town, Tasmania aboard the brig Venus. June 16 saw Catherine, Charlotte and some male convicts convincing the first mate to steal the ship while anchored at the River Tamar and the captain, Samuel Chace was visiting another ship.
The women with two of the men departed the ship at Bay of Islands, New Zealand, while the remaining crew went pirating, although there was no one aboard that knew how to navigate the ship. The two men who had accompanied Catherine and Charlotte, John Lancashire and Benjamin Kelly were captured and taken to London for trial. The Maoris, South Sea natives, captured the Venus with it's pirate crew, burned the ship for the scrap metal and more than likely consigned the crew to the cooking pot.
It appears that Catherine had died of disease; Charlotte is said to have had a child and lived with a minor chieftain at the Bay of Islands (another story tells of her being picked up by a passing American whaler on Vavau in the Tonga Group.

Charlotte is known today as Australia's first female pirate, although it seems more probable the Catherine was the real instigator of the crime.

Margaret Croke ~ alias Margaret Jordan
Years Active: 1809
Country of Origin: Canadian
Comments: Following a dispute with investors over his schooner, The Three Sisters, Edward Jordan was on his way to Halifax to sort it out. Wrongly assuming his family was being sent to debtors’ prison, he killed two crewmen then three the Captain overboard before commandeering the vessel with the help of the remaining crewmen. The marooned Captain survived and testified against Jordan claiming Margaret, who was aboard with her son and three young daughters, was also involced. Margaret admitted hitting the Captain after he had hit her husband during an argument in her cabin before he decided to commandeer the vessel; the other crew member testified she was actually in fear for her life from her violent husband and had attempted to escape. Both Margaret and Edward were hanged for piracy.

Johanna Hard (1789-18??)
Years Active: 1823
Country of Origin:
Comments: Sweden’s last pirate.

In 1823, recently widowed Hard, a farm owner on Vrango Island, was arrested along with her farmhand Anders Andersson, farmer Cristen Andersson, and one of Christen’s farmhands Carl Borjesson and boatman Johan Anderson Flatas of Goteborg for piracy after the Danish ship Faru Mette was found beached and plundered with a murdered crew. Evidence was presented that the five had followed the Frau Mette on Flatas fishing vessel the Styrso and equested water. After boarding her they killed the crew. Johan Andersson Flatas, Anders Andersson and Christen Andersson were sentenced to death and beheaded. Carl Borjesson was imprisoned in Karlstens fortress where he died 1853. The evidence against Johanna Hard was insufficient and she was released and subsequently disappeared.

Sadie the Goat
Years Active: 1869
Country of Origin:
Comments: Operated around New York State as a member of the Charlton Street Gang. Named for her havit of headbutting her victims before taking their money.

Gertrude Imogene Stubbs ~ alias “Gunpowder Gertie, the Pirate Queen of the Kootenays”
Years Active: 1898-1903
Country of Origin:
Comments: Fictional pirate who operated in the Kootenay Lake and river system of British Columbia, Canada. Told as an April Fools joke in the local newspaper, so many people believed it that it was later retold as historical fact on the CBC program “This Day in History”.

China Sea Pirates of the 19th & 20th Centuries

Lo Hon-cho ~ alias Hon-cho Lo
Years Active: 1920s
Country of Origin: East China
Comments: Took command of 64 ships after her husband’s death in 1921. Youthful and reported to be pretty, she gained the reputation of being the most ruthless of all China’s pirates. Lo Hon-cho’s fleet attacked villages and fishing fleets in the seas around Beihai taking young woman as prisoners and later selling them into slavery. In 1922 a Chinese warship intercepted the fleet destroying 40 vessels. Despite escaping, Lo Hon-cho was later handed to authorities by the remaining pirates in exchange for clemency.

Years Active: 1922
Country of Origin: East China
Comments: United her 50 ship fleet with Lo Hon-Cho

Lai Sho Sz’en ~ alias Lai Choi San
Years Active: 1922-1939
Country of Origin: East China
Comments: Operated in the South China Sea. Commanded 12 junks.

P’en Ch’ih Ch’iko or Kim Ming
Years Active: 1936
Country of Origin: East China
Comments: Commanded 100 pirates.

Huang P’ei-mei
Years Active: 1937-1950s
Country of Origin: East China
Comments: Led 50,000 pirates.

Cheng Chui Ping ~ nicknamed “Sister Ping”
Years Active: 1970s-1990s
Country of Origin: Fujian province, China
Comments: Operated in the South China Sea smuggling thousands of Chinese immigrants to the U.S. and Europe. Was convicted in the U.S. and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Due for release in 2030.