When you think about pirates, it’s very likely that it’s the image of a male pirate that comes to your mind. However, male pirates weren’t the only ones to roam the seas during the ‘Golden Age of Piracy’ (1700–1725). There were also female pirates. Two of them were Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Here are 7 facts about the fascinating lives of these two women.

1. Childhood

Anne Bonny was born around 1700 in County Cork, Ireland while Mary Read was born around 1695 in Ireland. Both were illegitimate daughters and were brought up as boys.

2. None of what’s known about Bonny can be verified

Most of what we know about Anne Bonny comes from Captain Charles Johnson’s book A General History of the Pyrates (1724). Many historians believe that Johnson was actually Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe!

3. Anne Bonny and Calico Jack

At age 16, Anne married James Bonny, a penniless sailor, causing Anne’s father to disinherit her. The newly wedded coupled set out for New Providence. That’s where Anne met pirate « Calico Jack » Rackham. She fell in love with him. That is when her pirate life began. While she was onboard, Anne dressed as a man.

4. Mary Read on the battlefield

Even after her childhood, Mary Read continued to crossdress. Disguised as a man, she enrolled in the British military and became a great soldier.

5. Mary joined Rackham’s crew dressed as a man.

In order to be admitted on board, Mary had to dress in men’s clothing. She admitted to Anne that she was a woman and, in turn, Anne admitted the same.

6. Mary and Anne behaved like male pirates

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were said to drink and to curse a lot. However, the legend says that they proved to be braver than the rest of the crew. Captain Jonathan Barnet was sent to stop Rackham and his crew. Barnet’s ship inflicted heavy damage upon Rackham’s. Every pirate had given up fighting except for two members: Mary and Anne. After fighting tooth and nail, they were captured by Barnet.

7. They escaped hanging because of their ‘condition’

Just like the rest of Rackham’s crew, Anne and Mary were sentenced to hang. Yet, they told the judge that they were pregnant, which was found to be true. Mary died in prison not long after whereas no one knows what happened to Anne.


Anne Bonny and  Mary Read had a great impact on popular culture. For example, they appeared in the Detective Conan animated film ‘Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure’. Mary Read was also featured in 2013 video game Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, in which she was voiced by Olivia Morgan. Anne and Mary certainly have something to do in the way female pirates are portrayed. Yet, the most famous female pirate of all time was Ching Shih who terrorized the China Sea in the 19th century.






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