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Myths and Mermaids
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Life in Port
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Going to Sea
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Lighthouse Keepers
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Changing Roles for Women
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Women in the Military
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Women in Wartime Production
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Early Yachting and Racing
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Women and the Sea in the 20th Century
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In This Chapter


Women Posing
as Sailors
Women and
the British Navy
Merchant and
Whaling Wives


Women Posing as Sailors

Anne Bonny and Mary Read,
1829 From The History of the Pirates: Containing the Lives of Those Noted Pirate Captains, Misson, Bowen, Kidd, Tew, Halsey, White, Condent, Bellamy, Fly, Howard, Lewis, 1829
The Mariners' Museum Research Library and Archives

Anne Bonny was born in Ireland, the daughter of a lawyer and his maid. After emigrating to the colonies, Anne married a seaman named James Bonny and sailed with him to the Bahamas. There, in 1719, she met Jack Rackham, a colorful pirate known as Calico Jack. She left her husband and sailed with Rackham, raiding Spanish ships off the coast of Cuba and Hispaniola. Strangely enough, one of the ships captured by Rackham carried another female sailor, Mary Read.

Mary Read was born in England in 1690. In order to claim money from her father's family, her mother raised her as a boy from birth. She joined the navy, then deserted and boarded a ship headed to the West Indies. The ship was captured by Jack Rackham, and Read joined Rackham's crew.

In 1720, the British captured Calico Jack near Jamaica. The pirates were tried and found guilty. Rackham and the men were hanged. Bonny and Read were imprisoned
instead because both were pregnant. No one knows what happened to Bonny or her child. Read died of a fever within a year.
She Killed Him on the Spot,
1896 Engraving by William Margetson, from
The Story of the Sea: Pirates and Marooners
The Mariners' Museum Research Library and Archives
While on Calico Jack Rackham's ship, Mary Read fell in love with a fellow pirate--a man who lacked Read's fighting skills and aggressiveness. When the man was challenged to a duel, Read, knowing that her lover would lose, picked a fight with the same sailor and won the duel herself.

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