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Pirates in Petticoats

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  • Jeanne de Belleville, dame de Montaigu (c.1300 - 1359)
    Jeanne de Clisson (1300–1359), also known as the Lioness of Brittany, was a feared Breton pirate who plied the English Channel for French ships from 1343 to 1356. She was born Jeanne-Louise de Bell...
  • Anne Bonney, Pirate (c.1696 - c.1720)
    Anne Bonny (March 8, 1702– possibly April 25, 1782) was an Irish pirate who plied her trade in the Caribbean. Discussion based on Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Pyrates. Offic...
  • Gráinne Ní Mháille, Sea Queen of Connacht (c.1530 - c.1603)
    From the English Wikipedia page on Grace O'Malley, Pirate Queen: Gráinne Ní Mháille (c. 1530 – c. 1603), Gráinne O'Malley[1] or Grace O'Malley,[2] was Queen of Umaill, chieftain of the Ó Máille cla...


from: Female Pirates - Women Who Took to the High Seas

As referents to persons, places, or things, nouns give us rich pictures. In the case of pirate, we see the Jolly Roger, black boots, and one-armed, one-eyed scallywags taking a swig off a bottle of rum before belching out, "Yo ho ho!" and launching into an R-rated sea chanty.

But the term female pirate does not fit into this comically fun stereotype. Female pirates, from the 3rd century BC to Elizabethan England, roamed the seas as rulers, marauders, and entrepreneurs. Although hailing and sailing from different cultures, the Jane Sparrows featured below made a different kind of splash into the annals of history.

Pirates and Privateers


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Project Profiles

The following are female pirates, who may or may not have lived, that are recognized by historians and the time period they were active.

Early pirates

Ch’iao K’uo Füü Jëën | 600 B.C. | China|Chinese | Possibly mythical Pirates

| Queen Teuta of Illyria | 232 B.C. to 228 B.C. | Illyria | Adriatic Sea.

Viking Age and Medieval pirates

| Rusila | Norway|Norwegian | Fought against her brother Thrond for the thrones of both Denmark and Norway. Possibly fictional. Recorded in Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum (History of the Danes). Johannes Steenstrup linked her to the Ingean Ruadh (Red Maid) of Irish folklore. The Danish History, Books I-IX / Saxo, Grammaticus

| Stikla | Norwegian | Sister of Rusila: Became a pirate to avoid marriage. Recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

|Princess Sela | c. 420 A.D. | Norwegian. | Sister of Koller, king of Norway. Horwendil (later to be father of Amleth/Hamlet) was King 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.

| Alvid | Norwegian | Leader of a group of male and female pirates. Also recorded in the Gesta Danorum.

| Wigbiorg, Hetha and Wisna | c. 8th century A.D. | Norwegian | All three are listed in the Gesta Danorum as sea captains. Wigbiorg died in battle, Hetha became queen of Zealand (Denmark)|Zealand, and Wisna lost a hand in a duel. | Alf and Alfhild|Alfhild a.k.a. Ælfhild, Alwilda, Alvilda, Awilda | | post-850 A.D. | Sweden|Swedish | Existence is disputed. Often wrongly dated to the 5th century | Ladgerda | | c. 870 A.D. | | Ladgerda is the inspiration for Hermintrude in William Shakespeare|Shakespeare's Hamlet. |Æthelflæd aka The Lady of the Mercians | 872–918 | 911-918 | England|English | 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 (Germanic tribe)|Danes in 911. Took command of the fleets to rid the seas of the Viking raiders.

| Jeanne de Clisson|Jeanne-Louise de Belleville | 1343-1356 | France|French | The "Lioness of Brittany". A French woman who became a pirate to avenge the execution of her husband. Attacked only French vessels.

16th century pirates

| Gráinne Ní Mháille a.k.a. Grace O'Malley a.k.a. Granuaile | c. 1530–c. 1603 | Early 1560s-1603 | Ireland|Irish | The Sea Queen Of Connemara, commanded three ships and 200 men. Atlantic Ocean|Atlantic pirate.

| Sayyida al Hurra (full name Sayyida al-Hurra ibn Banu Rashid al-Mandri al-Wattasi Hakima Tatwan) | 1510-1542 | Morocco|Moroccan | Allied with the Turkish corsair Oruç Reis|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 Fes, Morocco|Fez. Heads of State of Morocco Sayyida al Hurra

| Lady Mary Killigrew | 1530-1570 | England|English | Mary was the daughter of a former Suffolk pirate. Mary's husband Sir Henry Killigrew, a former pirate himself, was made a Vice-Admiral by Elizabeth I of England|Queen Elizabeth I and 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, Cornwall|Falmouth and her crew sailed it to Ireland to sell. However, the owner of this ship was a friend of Queen Elizabeth who then 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. The Killigrews of Falmouth

| | Elizabeth Trewinnard|Lady Elizabeth Killigrew | 1570s-1582 | English | Elizabeth and her husband Sir John lived in Pendennis Castle in Falmouth, Cornwall|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. Lady Elizabeth was later arrested and sentenced to death but pardoned. Her husband 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.Sea Borne Raiders of Cornwall 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

| Elizabetha Patrickson | 1634 | England|English | | Jacquotte Delahaye | | 1650s-1660s | | 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 aka Marie-Anne and Marianne | ca 1650 - | 1660s-1704 | French | Caribbean pirate and later based in Mississippi after Tortuga (Haiti)|Tortuga was closed down. Dieu-Le-Veut was a nickname meaning "Deus vult|God wills it" and given to her as it seemed anything she wanted God gave her. Married to a pirate, Anne 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

| Eric Cobham and Maria Lindsey|Maria Lindsey | | Early 1700s | | The wife of Captain Eric Cobham and possibly fictional. Pirate operating on the Canadian east coast. | Maria Cobham

| Often listed separately in lists of pirates but is likely to be Maria Lindsey (see above). List of Known Women Pirates | Ingela Gathenhielm | 1692-1729 | 1710-1721 | Swedish | Baltic pirate. Wife and partner of legendary pirate Lars Gathenhielm. Took sole control following his death in 1718.

| Anne Bonny born Anne Cormac, aliases Ann Bonn and Ann Fulford, possibly also Sarah Bonny | 1698-1782 | 1719-1720 | Ireland|Irish | Caribbean pirate. Married to pirate James Bonny, had an affair with pirate Calico Jack|John "Calico Jack" Rackham, and later joined his crew. Discovered another crew member Mark Read was secretly a woman (Mary Read) and the two became very close.

| Mary Read, alias Mark Read | c.1690-1721 | 1718-1720 | England|English | Caribbean pirate. As a man Mary went to sea and later joined the British army, fighting in War of the Spanish Succession|the War Of The Spanish Succession. Mary married and settled down as a woman but returned to male dress following the death of her husband, later boarding a ship bound for the Caribbean|West Indies. Captured by "Calico" Jack Rackham, Mary joined his crew. In 1721, she died in prison.

| Mary Harvey (or Harley), alias Mary Farlee | | 1725-1726 | | In 1725, Mary Harvey and her husband Thomas were transported to the Province of Carolina as felons. In 1726, Mary and three men were convicted of piracy. The men were hanged but Mary was released. Thomas, the leader of the pirates, was never caught.

| | Mary Crickett (or Crichett) | | 1728 | | In 1728, Mary Crickett and Edmund Williams were transported to the colony of Virginia together as felons. In 1729, along with four other men, both were convicted of piracy and hung. Bandits at Sea: A Pirates Reader

| Flora Burn | | 1751 | | Operated on the East Coast of North America.

| Rachel Wall | 1760-1789 | 1770s | | Married George Wall, a former privateer who served in the Revolutionary War, when she was 16. Operated on the New England Coast. Thought to be the first United States|American female pirate. In 1782, George and the rest of his crew were drowned in a storm. She was accused of robbery in 1789 and confessed to being a pirate. She was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.

| Charlotte de Berry | | 1700s | | Possibly fictional.

19th century pirates

| Charlotte Badger and Catherine Hagerty | | 1806 | England|English | Widely considered to be the first Australian female pirate. The ship Venus, due to a shortage of manpower, took on convicts including Badger and Hagerty as crew while in Australia. After docking at Launceston, Tasmania|Port Dalrymple, Tasmania, the Captain went ashore and the crew seized the ship, sailing for New Zealand. Hagerty along with two other convicts, a woman named Charlotte Edgar and a child were put ashore at the Bay of Islands with a supply of stores. Hagerty died shortly thereafter. The two men were arrested for piracy and Edgar remained to become one of the first settlers in New Zealand. Badger was never seen again. Convicts on the “Venus”. 1806

| Margaret Croke (Margaret Jordan) | | 1809 | | Following a dispute with investors over his schooner The Three Sisters, Edward Jordan was on his way to Halifax Regional Municipality|Halifax to sort it out. Wrongly assuming his family was being sent to debtors' prison, he killed two crewman then threw the Captain overboard before commandeering the vessel with the help of the remaining crewman. The marooned Captain survived and testified against Jordan claiming Margaret, who was aboard with her son and three young daughters, was also involved. 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 Hård | 1789 - 18?? | 1823 | | Sweden's last pirate; in 1823, recently widowed Hård, a farm owner on Vrångö Island, was arrested along with her farmhand Anders Andersson, farmer Christen Andersson, and one of Christen's farmhands Carl Börjesson and boatman Johan Andersson Flatås of Gothenburg|Göteborg for piracy after the Danish ship Frau Mette was found beached and plundered with a murdered crew. Evidence was presented that the five had followed the Frau Mette on Flatås fishing vessel the Styrsö and requested water. After boarding her they killed the crew. Johan Andersson Flatås, Anders Andersson, and Christen Andersson were sentenced to death and beheaded. Carl Börjesson was imprisoned in Carlsten|Karlstens fortress where he died 1853. The evidence against Johanna Hård was insufficient and she was released and subsequently disappeared. History of VrångöSwedish Pirates

| Sadie Farrell|Sadie the Goat | | 1869 | | Operated around New York State as a member of the Charlton Street Gang. Named for her habit of headbutting her victims before taking their money.

| | | Gertrude Stubbs|Gertrude Imogene Stubbs alias "Gunpowder Gertie, the Pirate Queen of the Kootenays" |

China Sea pirates of the 20th century

| Lo Hon-cho alias Hon-cho Lo | | 1920s | East China | 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 women 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. Lady Pirate Chief, Beauty, Betrayed

| | Lai Sho Sz’en alias Lai Choi San | | 1922-1939 | East China | Operated in the South China Sea. Commanded 12 ships.

| | P’en Ch’ih Ch’iko commanded 100 pirates in 1936 The Female Pirates

| | 1936 | East China | Huang P’ei-mei | | 1937-1950s | East China | Led 50,000 pirates.Women In Power 1900-1940

| |Cheng Chui Ping (nicknamed "Sister Ping") | |1970s - 1990s |Fujian province, China |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 and is due for release in 2030. |

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Further reading

Please insert in alphabetical order by last name of author, and provide URL link if available online

  • Cordingly, David Seafaring Women: Adventures of Pirate Queens, Female Stowaways, and Sailors' Wives
  • Driscoll, Sally (2009) Anne Bonny: "revenge". Great Neck Publishing.
  • Druett, John (2000) She Captains: Heroines and Hellions of the Sea. Simon & Schuster
  • Lorimer, Sara (2002) Booty: Girl Pirates on the High Seas. Chronicle Books
  • Nelson, James L. The Only Life That Mattered
  • Riley, Sandra Sisters of the Sea
  • Stanley, Jo Bold in Her Breeches