Pirate Queens


Woodcut of Anne Bonny (left) andMary Read (right).

As the story goes, Mary Read and Anne Bonny’s paths crossed in 1720 when Calico Jack’s crew attacked Mary’s ship in the West Indies and took some of its passengers as prisoners (Johnson, 121). When Mary surrendered to the attacking pirates and subsequently joined the crew, Anne couldn’t help but notice this bold and handsome new recruit. Though accounts vary, according to Captain Charles Johnson, Anne Bonny was initially drawn to Mary Read by physical attraction. Anne sought Mary out romantically, believing her to be an especially beautiful man. Once Anne’s intentions became obvious, though, Mary decided to reveal her true identity. Anne was either dissapointed or intrigued by this revelation depending on which accounts you beleive. Some historians argue that Anne and Mary were lovers, others that they were just friends. Captain Charles, for one, seems to have believed that the two were lovers- at least for a short time. He writes in his table of contents that Anne "fell in love" with Mary, and hints at a strong intimacy between the two women throughout his work. He also claims that Calico Jack became jealous of his wife's relationship with Mary, threatening to "cut her new lover's throat" to put a stop to the romance (Johnson, 123).

Both Mary and Anne had reputations as the toughest of the tough in the pirate world- they could fight, swear, steal, and even kill with the best of them. They were known as some of the fiercest fighters on Calico Jack’s crew, certainly challenging the old pirate saying that having women aboard a ship invites bad luck. Mary was known to pick fights with crewmembers “when she had been insulted,” and Anne is rumored to have brutally stabbed a man in the heart for making comments about women on board ships bringing bad luck to sailors (Johnson, 124). Anne was listed as a “Most Wanted” pirate in a Boston newspaper, an example of both her fierceness and her renown. The two women are often depicted in battle together, dressed in men’s clothes and carrying pistols, cutlasses, and knives.

As some accounts relay, Read and Bonny became less cautious about exposing their biological sexes over time. As they garnered the respect of the crew, they were able to dress and live as women in their down-time without negative repercussions, only donning their breeches and caps for battle. The fact that Read and Bonny were able to reveal their sex at all is truly indicative of their esteemed reputations, as many pirate captains (Blackbeard, for one) would have had women executed for their mere presence on a ship deck.

Pirate Queens