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The most famous pirates stick in everyone’s mind: Blackbeard, Long John Silver, and even Captain Jack Sparrow. But there are some amazing female pirates whose names we don’t know. Read on to find out about these ladies who sailed the seven seas.
1. Anne Bonny grew up in Ireland and married a pirate named James Bonny. They moved to the Bahamas, where she quickly took up with another pirate and they divorced. She sailed with Calico Jack Rackham for many years, capturing ships and bringing in treasure. Finally, crew was captured, with Bonny’s last words to Rackham: “Sorry to see you there, but if you’d fought like a man, you would not have been hang’d like a Dog.” Despite the rest of the crew being executed, Bonny was pregnant, which saved her from hanging.
2. Mary Read was Anne Bonny’s best mate. She would often dress as a boy, even joining the British military under the name Mark. When her ship was taken by pirates, she joined the crew and set sail with Anne Bonny, still under the name Mark. The fierceness of Read and Bonny nearly saved the ship when it was attacked by pirate hunter Captain Jonathan Barnet, but they couldn’t quite hold out, and Read died in jail.
3. Sadie the Goat began as a mugger in NYC, who earned her nickname by head-butting her victims. One myth says she only left after another brawler bit off her ear. She stole a ship and started raiding farmhouses and mansions along the Hudson and Harlem Rivers. After pirating for a year, she decided it had become too risky and moved back to the city after making peace with her rival. She also wore her bitten off ear in a locket for the rest of her life.
4. Queen Teuta Of Illyria is one of the earliest recorded female pirates. She was the Queen of Illyria in 231 BC, taking over after her husband died. She began to encourage her people to engage in piracy to fight back against her neighbors, plundering Roman ships and attacking Greek traders. She reigned over her pirate empire until the Romans declared war on Illyria, forcing her to surrender much of her power and pay tribute to Rome.
5. In the 17th century, a Frenchman and a Haitian woman had a daughter named Jacquotte Delahaye. Delahaye was orphaned at a young age with a mentally handicapped younger brother, and she took to piracy to support him. When government forces nearly caught her, she faked her own death and earned the name Back from the Dead Red. She continued to pirate and steal untold riches after she had thrown the government off her trail.
6. Most tales of piracy don’t start with a happy life of parenthood and landed titles. But that’s how Jeanne de Clisson began her life. It all came to an abrupt end when her husband was charged with treason and decapitated. She sold her land and bought three warships, which she named the Black Fleet. She then spent 13 years on the English Channel, attacking French ships and beheading all aristocrats. Eventually, she quietly retired to England and remarried.
7. Another Frenchwoman who turned to piracy was Anne Dieu-Le-Veut. She was widowed twice over, and eventually married the man who killed her second husband after challenging him to a duel. He was taken with her spark, and they married. Soon after they took to the seas together, ignoring any superstitions about women on the ocean. No one is entirely sure how they met their ends, except that they were fierce pirates while they lasted.
8. Another pirate queen who is notable enough to earn a place on our list is Sayyida al-Hurra, a Turkish woman who ruled Morocco after the death of her husband. She used a pirate fleet to control the western Mediterranean, and especially hated the Christians who had run her family out of Grenada. She was feared by most of the major players in Europe until her son-in-law overthrew her, using her fleet to attack anyone she disliked.