1. Anne Bonny
After moving to Nassau (also known as the Pirates’ Republic), she met Jack “Calico Jack” Rackham who became her lover. Mary took control of his ship The Revenge, and was an all-around bad-ass leader. She also was a very enviable natural redhead. Bonny did not disguise herself as a man, instead taking ownership of her female gender. She took part in combat alongside the men, and the accounts of her exploits present her as competent, effective in combat, and respected by her shipmates. Her name and gender were known to all from the start.
2. Mary Read
Mary Read was able to join the British navy, but masquerading as a man. Read, in male disguise, proved herself through battle, but she fell in love with a Flemish soldier. When they married, she used their military commission and gifts from intrigued brethren in arms as a funding source to acquire an inn named “De drie hoefijzers” (The Three Horseshoes”) near Breda Castle in The Netherlands.
Upon her husband’s early death, Read resumed male dress and military service in Holland. With peace, there was no room for advancement, so she quit and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies. Once her ship was captured, she was forced to become a pirate too.
During their brief cruise in late 1720, they took several prisoners and forced them into useful service. Read fell in love with one such victim who was surprised to learn that she was a woman and eventually returned the affection. When one of the pirates challenged her lover to a duel, Read contrived a secret duel to occur a couple hours earlier. She killed the pirate before he could bring any harm to her lover, whom she called “husband” as they made vows to each other in absence of a minister.
3. Sadie the Goat
Sadie Farrel (nicknamed Sadie the Goat) first came to prominence as a vicious street mugger in New York’s “Bloody” Fourth Ward. Upon encountering a lone traveler, she would headbutt men in the stomach and her male accomplice would hit the victim with a sling-shot and rob them. Once she turned to piracy, with “the Jolly Roger flying from the masthead”, she and her crew would sailed up and down the Hudson and Harlem Rivers raiding small villages, robbing farm houses and riverside mansions and occasionally kidnapping men, woman and children for ransom. She was said to have made several male prisoners“walk the plank”. She is considered the “Queen of the Waterfront”
4. Queen Teuta of Illyria
After the death of her husband Agron, (250–230 BC) the former king of the Ardiaei, she inherited the Ardiaean kingdom.
While her Illyrian ships were off the coast of Onchesmos, they intercepted and plundered somemerchant vessels of Rome. Teuta’s forces extended their operations further southward into the Ionian Sea, breaching thetrade routes between the mainland of Greece and the Greek cities in Italy, and were soon feared as the terror of the Adriatic.
Queen Teuta told the ambassadors that according to the law of the Illyrians, piracy was a lawful trade and that hergovernment had no right to interfere with this as a private enterprise. She also implied that “it was never the custom of royalty to prevent the advantage of its subjects they could get from the sea”
5. Back from the dead Red
Born the daughter of a Frenchman and a Haitian woman in 17th century, Jacquotte Delahayestole untold fortunes and captured the imaginations of many seafaring storytellers. This buccaneer lost her mother to childbirth and her brother was mentally handicapped, and once her father was murdered Delahaye was left alone to care for him. Legend has it that piracy is how she managed to do just that.
Her nickname comes from the most popular aspect of her story, which claims this red-haired pirate faked her own death to escape the government forces that were closing in on her in the 1660s. From there, she took up a new identity, living for several years as a man.
She led a gang of hundreds of pirates, and with their help took over a small Caribbean island in the year of 1656, which was called a “freeboter republic”.
6. The Lioness of Brittany
Jeanne de Clisson’s tale is one of tragedy, revenge and the showmanship. As the wife of Olivier III de Clisson, Jeanne was a happily married mother of five, and a lady of Brittany, France. But when land wars between England and France led to her husband being charged with treason and punished with decapitation, she swore revenge on the France’s King Philip VI.
The widowed de Clisson sold all of her land to buy three warships, which she dubbed her Black Fleet. These were painted black, draped with blood red sails, and crewed with merciless privateers. From 1343-1356, the Lioness of Brittany sailed the English Channel, capturing the French King’s ships, cutting down his crew, and beheading with an axe any aristocrat who had the misfortune to be onboard.
7. Anne Dieu-Le-Veut
Also from Brittany was this French woman. But as fate would have it, her second husband was killed by the man who’d become her third. Dieu-le-Veut insisted on a duel with Laurens de Graaf, to avenge her late mate. The Dutch buccaneer was so taken by her courage that he refused to fight her, and instead offered her his hand. They married on July 28th, 1693, and had two more children.
Dieu-le-Veut set sail with de Graaf, which was considered odd as many seamen considered women on ships bad luck. Yet Dieu-le-Veut and de Graaf’s relationship has been compared to that of Anne Bonny and Calico Jack, in that they were inseparable partners who sneered at superstition.
8. Sayyida al-Hurra
A contemporary and ally of the Turkish pirate Barbarossa, Sayyida al-Hurra was a pirate queen and was the last woman awarded the title of al Hurra (Queen), following the death of her husband who had ruled Tétouan, Morocco. In fact, her real name is unknown. Sayyida al Hurra is a title that translates to “noble lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.”
She ruled from 1515-1542, controlling the western Mediterranean Sea with her pirate fleet while Barbarossa roamed the eastern side. Al Hurra’s inspiration to take to piracy came from a wish for revenge against the “Christian enemy” she felt had wronged her years before when Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella ran her Muslim family out of Granada. She was a feared figure for the Spanish and Portuguese, whose historical records are peppered with paperwork involving reports about her exploits and ransoms.
9. Ching Shih
One of the most feared pirates of all time was this menace of the China Sea. Born in humble beginnings as Shi Xiang Gu, she was working as a prostitute when pirates captured her. In 1801, she married the notorious Chinese pirate Zheng Yi. Yi’s Red Flag Fleet was immense, made up of 300 ships and somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 men.
Gu became known as Ching Shih, which meant widow of Zheng. To help her maintain the day-to-day concerns of the sprawling pirate army she had just inherited, Ching Shih enlisted the help of Chang Pao, a fisherman’s son who had been adopted by Yi. To manage so many, Ching Shih essentially set up her own government to establish laws and even taxes. Breaking her laws lead to decapitation. She was revered and feared as far away as Great Britain.
Lagertha’s career as a warrior began when Frø, king of Sweden, invaded Norway and killed the Norwegian king Siward. Frø put the women of the dead king’s family into a brothel for public humiliation. Hearing of this, Ragnar Lodbrok came with an army to avenge his grandfather Siward. Many of the women Frø had ordered abused dressed themselves in men’s clothing and fought on Ragnar’s side. Chief among them, and key to Ragnar’s victory, was Lagertha.
She was described as ” a skilled Amazon, who, though a maiden, had the courage of a man, and fought in front among the bravest with her hair loose over her shoulders. All-marveled at her matchless deeds, for her locks flying down her back betrayed that she was a woman.”
Alfhild, daughter of the GeatishkingSiward, was ashield maiden, who had her own fleet ofviking ships, with crews of young female pirates, who raided along the coasts of the Baltic Sea.
As a young princess, Alfhild’s chamber was guarded by a lizard and a snake, which scared away unworthy suitors. A Danish prince named Alf, also of Geatish descent, came to Geatland and defeated the animal guards. But Alfhild, advised by her mother, fled from Alf dressed as a man, and she became a shield maiden.
12. The Lady of the Mercians
Æthelflæd, Lady of the Mercians, ruled Mercia from 911 to her death in 918. Æthelflæd was born at the height of the Viking invasions of England. On her husband’s death in 911 after the Battle of Tettenhall, she was recognised as the “Lady of the Mercians”. This was not a purely honorific title; Æthelflæd was a formidable military leader and tactician and ruled for eight years.
13. “The Sea Queen of Connaught”
Grace O’Malley also known as Queen of Umaill, chieftainof the Ó Máille clan followed in the footsteps of her father Eoghan Dubhdara Ó Máille. Upon his death, she inherited his large shipping and trading business. Even as a young woman O’Malley was involved in the business of sailing ships and international trade. She probably learned the business from her father who plied a busy international shipping trade. It is known that she always wanted to join his fleets, but he always refused. Bunowen Castle, where she lived with her first husband was situated on the most western point in Connacht and was apparently the first base for her shipping and trade activities. By the time of an-Chogaidh’s death in the early 1560s, she commanded the loyalty of so many O’Flaherty men that many of them left the area when she did and followed her to Clare Island in Clew Bay, where she moved her headquarters.
Her first husband took a fortress in the Lough Corrib from the Joyce clan. Because of an-Chogaidh’s attitude, the Joyces began calling that particular fortress “Cock’s Castle.” When they heard of his death, they decided to take back the castle. However, O’Malley successfully defended it and apparently the Joyces were so impressed with her abilities in battle that they renamed it Caisleán na Circe, the “Hen’s Castle,” the name by which it is still known. The English later attacked her at the Hen’s Castle, but despite being outnumbered, O’Malley withstood the siege. According to legend, she took lead from the roof of the fortress and melted it, then poured it onto the heads of the attacking soldiers. She summoned help by sending a man to light a beacon on the nearby Hill of Doon. Help arrived and the English were beaten back, never to attack the fortress again.
14. Ingela Gathenhielm
From 1711, Ingela was married to the privateer and pirate Lars Gathenhielm, who in 1710 had received permission from the king to attack and plunder ships from enemy nations on the Baltic Sea (and also, as it was said, often attacked other ships as well) and sold the valuables of the ship in Dunkerque. He was making a fortune, and was ennobled in 1715.
Ingela had met Lars when they were children, as the farms of their parents were next to each other. They had five children, and she is believed to have been not only his wife but also his companion in his professional life, and the brain behind a lot of his plans as a privateer and pirate. They both ran the affairs from their base inGothenburg. When her husband died in 1718, Ingela took over his Privateering (and his alleged Pirate empire), continued its business and also expanded it during the remaining war. She was called the Shipping Queen.
15. Rachel Wall
Rachel Wall was an American female pirate, and the last woman to be hanged inMassachusetts. She was alsothe first American-born woman to become a pirate.
When George Wall, her husband, went to the sea on a fishing schooner after the newlyweds moved toBoston, Rachel took up a job as a servant. When George came back, he brought with him five sailors and their lovers, and persuaded Rachel to join them. In one week, the party had spent all their money and the schooner set sail again, upon which George suggested they all become pirates. He borrowed another schooner from a friend, and the party set sail.
Rachel and her crew worked in the Isle of Shoals, just off the New Hampshire coast. After storms Rachel would stand on the deck and scream for help. When passers-by came to give aid, they were killed and all their goods stolen. The crew was successful in capturing twelve boats, stealing $6,000 cash, an indeterminate amount of valuables, and killing twenty-four sailors, all between 1781 and 1782.