Although piracy is a male-dominated occupation, several women have succeeded in it. They were known for their ferocity and intelligence, and for the brutal nature with which they dealt with their enemies. They planted fear even in powerful empires. Here is the list of the 10 most notorious pirate women in history.
10. Sadie the Goat
Originally called Sadie Farrel, she was an American river pirate who lived in the 19th century. She spent her first days on the streets of New York as a mugger, and earned the nickname Cabra because of her habit of headbutting her opponents. After losing an ear in a fight with her rival Gallus Mag, Sadie fled New York and formed a new gang of thieves who eventually became a pirate. They traveled along the Hudson River and stole farms and manors, and often kidnapped people for ransom. She returned to New York later and made a truce with Mag.
9. Queen Teuta of Illyria
One of the first known pirates in history, Teuta was a pirate queen from Illyria who lived in the 3rd century BC. Ruler of the Ardiaei tribe, she asserted her supremacy over the Adriatic Sea, attacking Roman and Greek ships. The Romans sent envoys to negotiate, but Tétua had one of them killed during the meeting, resulting in a war between the two kingdoms. The war, which lasted from 229 to 227 BC, brought the fall of Tétua. She was allowed to rule Illyria, but was denied the chance to sail again.
8. Grace O’Malley
Also known as ‘Granuaile’ and in several other names, Grace O’Malley was born into a family of pirates in Ireland. She assumed the reign of the family tradition in 1560 and led many attacks along the coast of Ireland. It became a headache for British and Spanish ships and, in 1574, was captured by British forces. Grace was imprisoned for almost 18 months, but returned to piracy after her release. She was defeated again, but in a direct appeal to Queen Elizabeth I, she recovered her fleet. She died in 1603.
7. Jacquotte Delahaye
Born in Haiti, Jaqcuotte Delahaye was a pirate who lived in the 17th century. She became a pirate to care for her mentally handicapped brother after his mother died giving birth to him. She once faked her death to escape the government and assumed the identity of a man. Jaqcuotte returned to active piracy a few years later, earning the nickname Back From the Dead Red, and dominated the waters of the Caribbean with another famous pirate, Anne Dieu-le-Veut. She was killed during a shootout to defend an island she had captured.
6. Rachel Wall
Considered the first American woman to become a pirate, Rachel Wall was born in 1760 as Rachel Schmidt. She married George Wall and together with some friends, they started the piracy business. They worked with Shoals Island as a base, captured several boats and killed about 25 sailors. After her husband and crew died in a maritime accident, Rachel returned to Boston and worked as an occasional maid and thief. She was captured during an assault and hanged in 1789, becoming the last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts.
5. Sayyida al-Hurra
A pirate queen and ally of the infamous Turkish pirate Barbarossa, Sayyida al-Hurra was the ruler of the Moroccan city of Tetouan. In fact, Sayyida al-Hurra is a title for a noble lady and her real name is unknown. Governing from 1515 to 1542, she controlled the western part of the Mediterranean Sea. She allegedly became a pirate to take revenge on Christian rulers. She later married the king of Morocco, but was eventually overthrown by her son-in-law. Your remaining life is lost in history.
4. Jeanne de Clisson
Known as the Lioness of Brittany, she was the wife of Olivier III de Clisson and the mother of five children. She became a pirate to take revenge on the French king Philip VI, after her husband was executed for treason. She sold all of her properties and bought three warships. Jeanne and her crew terrorized the English Channel, capturing only French ships and killing most of their crew. She retired from piracy in 1356 and later married English lieutenant Sir Walter Bentley.
3. Mary Read
The daughter of a sea captain, Mary Read was Anne Bonny’s close companion. She was known for her talent to disguise herself as a man and lived in the disguised childhood of her stepbrother Mark. She joined the British army and fell in love with a Flemish soldier. After her death, she went to the Caribbean as a sailor. She was captured by pirates there and was introduced to her crew. Later, she met and became friends with Anne Bonny and joined Calico Jack’s crew. Only a few people knew that she was a woman. English forces captured her with Jack and his crew in 1720. Although she escaped execution with Bonny, Read died in prison the following year from a fever.
2. Anne Bonny
Anne Bonny is a name that should not be forgotten in the history of pirates. The daughter of an Irish lawyer, she married James Bonny, a small-scale pirate, in 1718 and moved to the Bahamas. There, she fell in love with the infamous pirate John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham and separated from her husband. She married Calico Jack and became a member of her crew. She dominated the Caribbean seas, partnering with the equally infamous pirate Mary Read and capturing many ships. In 1720, Rackham and his crew were captured by English forces and executed. Anne and Mary were released from execution due to pregnancy. It is not clear what happened to them next.
1. Ching Shih
Usually called the most fearsome female pirate in history, Ching Shih was a Chinese pirate who reigned over the waters of the China Sea in the early 19th century. A former prostitute, she was captured by pirates in 1801 and married the gang’s captain, Zheng Yi. She took command of the fleet, called the Red Flag Fleet, after her husband’s death, and attacked British and Chinese ships. Its fleet has often grown in relation to its formal size. The Chinese government made a truce with her in 1810. She spent the rest of the years running a brothel until her death in 1844.