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Mary Read and Anne Bonny dressed like men, no doubt a fearsome sight




Mary Read was the second of a famed and legendary female pirate duo. Mary was born in Devon in 1685, the illegitimate daughter of a young widow. She was raised as a boy, pretending to be her older brother. From an early age she recognised that disguising herself as a man was the only way she could find work and support herself.

Read worked in various roles and for various institutions, often becoming bored very quickly. As an older teenager she joined the army, where she met her future husband, having revealed her gender to him. The two lovebirds ran away together and married in the Netherlands.

Burdened with bad luck throughout this time in her life, Mary’s husband fell ill shortly after the marriage and died. In a state of despair, Read wanted to escape from everything and joined the army again. This time, she had boarded a Dutch ship that sailed to the Caribbean. Almost at the reach of its destination, Mary’s ship was attacked and captured by the pirate, Calico Rackham Jack, who absorbed all the English captured sailors as part of his crew.

Thus, unwillingly Mary became a pirate, yet it was not long before Read began to enjoy the pirate lifestyle. When she had a chance to leave Rackham’s ship, Mary decided to stay. It was on Rackham’s ship that Mary met Anne Bonny (who was also dressed as a man), and the two formed their close and intimate (probably lesbian) relationship.


She accepted the King's pardon c. 1718–1719, then took a commission to privateer, but joined the crew in mutiny.






Mary Read shocks a pirate in revealing her gender as a secret weapon, where males tend not to want to harm females.




On 15 November 1720, pirate hunter, Captain Jonathan Barnet, took Rackham's crew by surprise, while they hosted a rum party with another crew of Englishmen at Negril Point off the west coast of the Colony of Jamaica. After a volley of fire disabled the pirate vessel, Rackham's crew and their "guests" fled to the hold, leaving only the women and one other to fight Barnet's boarding party (it is also possible that Rackham and his crew were too drunk to fight).


Allegedly, Read angrily shot into the hold, killing one, and wounding others, when the men would not come up and fight with them. Barnet's crew eventually overcame the women. Rackham surrendered, requesting "quarter."

After months of sailing the high seas aboard Revenge with Anne Bonny, the two would be eventually be captured and put on trial, only to be spared execution by ‘pleading the belly’. Whilst the fate of Anne is not known, Mary died in prison after contracting a violent fever. She was buried in Jamaica on 28 April 1721, it is thought while still pregnant.






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