An informational site on the Pirates of Charleston, SC, and other Pirates of History

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Mary Read

(16?? - 1721)
Mary Read

Mary Read is remembered today as one of the two most well-known women pirates active during the pirates' heyday during the early 18th century. Her pirate career was very short and pretty uneventful to other pirates. She was however, able to hide her true identity by disguising herself as a man since the clothes of the day was often loose and baggy. She also carried her own weight in sailing and in combat just as well as any of the male crewmen, and in some cases, much better!

Mary Read was born around London to a mother who had an affair after her husband disappeared at sea. In order to get money, the mother made Mary dress a boy to pretend that she was her son who had died. At 13, Read was sent to be a footboy to a French woman but she ran off and joined a man-of-war crew still disguised as a man. Tired of this as well,

she enlisted in the army and there met her soon to be husband. The two were discharged and they took up a residence near the Castle of Breda, but her husband died shortly after and she decided once again to disguise herself as man and eventually boarded a ship to the West Indies. While there, a vessel she was on was captured by the pirate Calico Jack and she became one of the pirate crew.

While there, she attracted the attention of another crewman who revealed to Read that she was really a woman named Anne Bonney. Bonney, thinking Read was a man, was surprised to find out that her interest was another woman disguised as a man. They decided to tell Calico Jack about Read's secret and apparently he did not mind the second woman crewman. Both Bonney and Read became good friends and when Calico Jack's pirate ship was boarded in October 1720, only the two women tried to fight off the invaders and rally their fellow pirates, but the male crewmen easily surrendered. Their fight was in vain as they were too far outnumbered and were taken prisoner.

The two women had a separate trial from the men twelve days later on November 28. The men's trial ended with a conviction and sentence of death to 12 men including Calico Jack. The men were hung the two following days, and soon after the two women would begin their trial. The verdict was the same for them - they would be hanged until dead. The two women then revealed that they were both pregnant and a following examination proved they were so they were both were spared the hangman's noose. While in prison, Read contracted a high fever and soon died after the trial.

Along with Anne Bonny, Mary Read is one of the rare instances in history where a woman's pirate's life is known. The fact that they both were able to hide their sexuality to the crew is amazing; and in the end, the women's brave battle against the boarders while the rest of the crew cowered deserves respect in itself.


Anne Bonney
Bartholomew Roberts
Charles Vane
Edward Low

Edward Teach
Emanuel Wynne
Henry Every
Jack Rackham
Mary Read

Richard Worley
Stede Bonnet
Thomas Tew
Walter Kennedy
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