Ahoy! Woman on Deck!

When it comes to infamous pairs, there is Bonnie and Clyde, Robin Hood and Little John, and then there is Mary Read and Anne Bonny, who could be described as the outlaws of the sea.  These women were known as a great duo of female pirates.  So, let’s take a closer look at one of them…Mary Read.  She is an intriguing figure and the stuff that legends are made of (in the most literal sense).  Very little factual information is known about her and much of her story is speculative, but why not take a crack at it?!

In 1690, Mary Read was born to a widow of a sea captain.  As a struggling single parent, Mary’s mother dressed her up as a boy, passing her off as her son who had died, in order to get financial support from her paternal grandmother.  As Mary grew, she found a certain appeal in being seen as a young “man” and spent her youth working as a sailor and soldier.  It was during this time as a soldier for the British that she met a Flemish soldier in Holland.  They were married and operated an inn until his death.  After the loss of her husband, Mary went back to fighting.  This lasted only a short time, as the war ended.  She then set sail for the West Indies.

Mary Read Pirate Vest:

Mary Read Pirate Vest

Mary’s travels to the West Indies were rudely interrupted by a pirate attack on her ship.  As the saying goes, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”  And that’s exactly what Mary did; she joined the pirate life in the Caribbean.  Mary kept up this act for some time and in 1720, she climbed on board the ship of “Calico Jack” Rockham.  On Rockham’s vessel, Mary met a woman named Anne Bonny, who had deserted her husband, to live out her love of piracy.  As legend has it, Anne and Mary developed a fondness for each other and became Rockham’s most bloodthirsty pirates.

By late 1720, Captain Rockham, Mary, Anne, and their crew had gained quite an infamous reputation.  They were seen as vicious and dangerous pirates, with many on their trail to capture and kill them.  One of their pursuers was Captain Jack Barnet, who finally tracked down and attacked the ship in October 1720.  Some accounts believe that Mary and Anne fought the adversaries while the male pirates hid.  Eventually, Rockham and his crew were taken captive, tried, and executed on November 18, 1720 in Port Royal.  However, Mary and Anne were spared from death, as it was discovered that they were pregnant.  Unfortunately Mary never saw freedom again.  She was sent to prison after her trial and died of illness there, most likely in 1721.

Mary Read Blouse:

Mary Read Blouse

It is hard to separate fact from fiction in the case of Mary Read.  However, it is confirmed that a woman of that name did exist and served as a pirate on Rockham’s ship.  There is also evidence to support Mary’s skill and ability as a pirate was equal to, if not better than, her male crew.  Beyond that, Mary has gone down in the books as one of the only two female pirates (the other being Anne Bonny) in the “golden Age of Piracy”.  Interest and respect of her continues to grow, as she defied all odds and attained the freedom that so many women of her day, did not.

Be sure to sneak a peek at our Mary Read clothing, as well as other pirate finds at:  http://www.historicalclothingrealm.com/

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