Famous Pirate Women in History

by |May 22, 2017
Categories: Infographics

Famous Pirate Women in History

Throughout history, many famous pirates have sailed throughout the world. A lot of notable pirates such as Sir Francis Drake and Blackbeard, among others, were male, but there were plenty of women pirates who were just as ruthless. Even like their male counterparts, there are some pirate women who have only existed throughout the hundreds of stories in pirate lore. The reason why there are so many interesting stories about pirates is because there's very little historic documentation of them, especially with female pirates. In most of history, women were not supposed to be pirates. One of many superstitions of the seas was that it was bad luck to have a woman aboard your ship. To keep their identity concealed, some would dress and live as men during their time on the water.

Despite the perceived negativity around women on the ships, it didn't stop them from taking command and committing acts of piracy at times. We've tracked down more than 30 pirate women, both real or potentially fictional, and included them in the following resources. These pirates come from various points in history dating all the way back more than a couple hundred years BC all the way to late 20th century. Below, we've featured ten of the most prominent women in piracy with information such as territories, years active, and more. Some of them, such as Anne Bonny, have shown up in video games, TV shows, and other forms of pop culture. Check out this infographic for your complete guide to these fierce females. 

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Famous Pirate Women in History

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Brassy Buccaneers: Ruthless Pirate: Women Who Dominated the Seven Seas Transcript

Jacquette Delahaye

Faked her own death and went into hiding dressed as a man to evade the government. Several years later, she returned to piracy. Died in a shootout defending the small Caribbean Island she had taken over. 

Aliases: Back From the Dead Red

Lifespan: Unknown

Year Active: 1650's-1660s AD

Country of Origin: Unknown

In Popular Culture: None

Mary Read

Fought in the was of the Spanish Succession while with the British Army. Became close with Anne Bonny after joining Calico Jack's crew. Was captured with the rest of the William Crew and sentenced to death by hanging. She eventually died in prison from a fever in 1721. 

Aliases: Mark Read

Lifespan: 1690-1718 AD

Years Active: 1718-1720 AD

Country of Origin: England

In Popular Origin: Assasin's Creed IV: Black Flag (video game), True Caribbean (film)

Anne Bonny/ Cormac

Abandoned her husband to join her love, John "Calico Jack" Rackham, and assisted in commanding his ship, The William. Dressed as a man while pillaging other ships. After the crew was captured, Bonny was the only member to be released following trial. Everyone else was hanged. 

Aliases: Ann Bonn, Ann Fulford, possibly also Sarah Bonny

Lifespan: 1700-1782 AD

Years Active: 1720 AD

Country of Origin: Ireland

In Popular Culture: Assasin's Credd IV: Blag Flag (video game), Black Sails (TV show)

Sadie Farrell

Earned the nickname Sadie the Goat due to her temperament and habit of headbutting victims. Her crew would raid small villages and farmhouses along The Hudson and Harlem rivers. Her ear was once bitten off in a fight and, after getting it back, she wore it on a necklace. 

Aliases: Sadie the Goat

Lifespan: Unknown

Years Active: 1889-1903 AD

Country of Origin: America

In Popular Culture: Gangs of New York (Film), referenced in several historical novels 

Rachel Wall

Thought to be the first American female pirate. During rough weather periods, her crew would disguise one of their ships to appear broken down and Wall would act distressed. When other ships came to inspect or help her out, the crew would then ambush and rob them. Was tried and sentenced to death by hanging in 1789. Was also the last woman to be hanged in the state of Massachusetts. 

Aliases: Rachel Schmidt

Lifespan: 1760- 1789 AD

Years Active: 1770's AD

Country of Origin: America (New England)

In Popular Culture: None

Lady Mary Killigrew

Supposedly bribed officials to overlook her privacy and illegal activities and to evade her death sentence after she was caught. Was often confused with he mother-in-law, Elizabeth Trewinnard, and hence sometimes was referred to as Elizabeth Killigrew. 

Aliases: Elizabeth Killigrew, Mary Wolverston

Lifespan: Unknown

Years Active: 1530-1570 AD

Country of Origin: England

In Popular Culture: None

Queen Teuta of Illyria

Took over the Ardiaean Kingdom following the death of her husband, King Agron. Provoked war with Rome because of piratical raids ordered on neighboring territories. 

Aliases: Unknown

Lifespan: Unknown

Years Active: 232-228 BC

In Popular Culture: None

Ching Shih

Former Chinese sex worker who married a pirate and rose to prominence after his death, taking command of the infamous Red Flag Fleet. At its height, her fleet consisted of more than 1500 ships and 80000 sailors. Considered to be the most successful female pirate and one of the world's most powerful pirates in history. 

Aliases: Madame Ching, Cheng I Sao

Lifespan: 1775-1844 AD

Years Active: 1801-1810 AD

Country of Origin: China

In Popular Culture: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (film)

Lo Hon-cho

Took command of 64 ships after her husband died in 1921. Her fleet would attack villages and fishing fleets around Beihai, taking young women as prisoners and selling them into slavery. 

Aliases: Hon-cho Lo

Lifespan: Unknown

Years Active: 1920s AD

Country of Origin: East China

In Popular Culture: None

Sources: Ancient-origins.net, annebonnypirate.com, Brittanica.com, Herstorie.com, History.com, Historynet.com, Mentalfloss.com, Republicofpirates.com, Thewayofthepirates.com, Wikipedia.org, The Danish History, Book I-IX by Grammaticus Saxo, Daring Pirate Women by Anne Wallace Sharp, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe

More Women Pirates in History

Aside from the ten pirates listed above, there are many other important women who have left their mark in pirate history. Some were real, but some are said to be made up. Check out the ledger below for information on several other notable women pirates.

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A Pirate's Ledger: Other Notable Women of the Seas Transcript

There are other Female Pirates mentioned throughout history. With the lack of documentation and historical records, it's difficult to know whether or not some of these women even existed. Here are a few others mentioned in pirate lore. (*Denotes existence is disputed)

*Rusila

Fought her brother for the thrones of Denmark and Norway

Active: Unknown

Territory: Norway

*Stikla

Sister of Rusila; became a pirate to avoid marriage

Active: Unknown

Territory: Norway

Princess Sela: 

Viking Pirate who fueded with her brother. 

Active: 420 AD

Territory: North Atlantic Ocean

*Wigbiorg, Hetha, and Wisna

Three potentially fictitious "Women-warriors" connected to the Battle of Bravelier. 

Active: 8th Century AD

Territory: Province South of Sweden

*Alfchild (alias: Alwilda)

Had a fleet of longships with crews of young female pirates that raided along the coasts of the Baltic Sea. 

Active: Unknown

Territory: The Baltic Sea

Ladgerda

Seen as inspiration for Hermintrude in Shakspeare's Hamlet

Active: Unknown

Territory: Unknown

*Aethelflaed (Alias: The Lady of the Mercians) 

Following her husband's death, she took command of his fleet in order to protect her land from the Danish Vikings

Active: 872- 918 AD

Territory: England

Jeanne of Clisson (Alias: The Lioness of Brittany)

Took up piracy in order to avenge the execution of her husband

Active: Unknown

Territory: The English Channel

Elise Eskilsdotter

Led open warfare, along with her children, against the German merchant class of Bergen by means of piracy. 

Active: 420 AD

Territory: Bergen, Norway

Grainne Ni Mhaille (Aliases: Grainne Mhaol, Granuaile, Grace O'Malley, "The Sea Queen of Connaught"

Former Queen of Umaill

Active: 1530-1603

Territory: Ireland

Sayyida al Hurra

Became queen of Tetouan following the death of her husband in 1515. After turning to piracy, she was notorious for being the one who would negotiate the release of Portuguese and Spanish captives. Was eventually overthrown by her son-in-law in 1542, after which her fate went unknown. 

Active: 1520-1542

Territory: Tetouan, Spain

Christina Anna Skytte

Participated in secret piracy started by her brother and spouse in The Baltic Sea. 

Active: 1650s-1660s 

Territory: Sweden

Anne Dieu-le-Veut

Was regarded as a mascot and symbol for god luck in accompanying pirate Laurens De Graaf on his ship during acts of piracy. Did not hide her gender like most other female pirates. 

Active: 1650s-1704s

Territory: Tortuga Island, Haiti

*Maria Lindsey

Practiced piracy with husband Eric Cobham in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from their base in Newfoundland

Active: Early 1700s AD

Territory: Gulf of St. Lawrence

Ingela Gathenhielm

Swedish privateer in service of King Charles XII of Sweden during the Great Northern War

Active: 1692-1729 AD

Territory: Baltic Sea

Mary Harvey (Alias Mary Farlee)

Convected of piracy in 1726, but was eventually released. 

Active: 1725-1726

Territory: Bergen, Norway

Mary Crickett

Convicted of piracy and hanged in 1729. 

Active: 1728-1729 AD

Territory: Unknown

Flora Burn

Information: Took up piracy in 1741. Captain of a group known as The Burn Rose Pirates. 

Active: 1741 AD

Territory: North American East Coast

*Charlotte de Berry

Only exists through potentially fictional stories about her life. 

Active: 1700s

Territory: Unknown

Charlotte Badger and Catherine Hagerty

Charlotte was considered the first Australian female pirate

Active: 186 AD

Territory: Tasmania, Australia

*Margaret Croke

Margaret and her husband, Edward Jordan, went to trial for piracy in the early 19th Century. Many accounts say that both were hanged, but the court report states only Edward was sentenced to death while Margeret was acquitted. 

Active: 1809 AD

Territory: Canadian East Coast

*Johanna Hard

Sweden's last pirate; arrested with other crew in 1828; eventually disappeared. 

Active: 1823 AD

Territory: Sweden

*Gertrude Imogene Stubbs (aliases: Gunpowder Gertie, The Pirate Queen of the Kootenays)

Often mistakenly reported as real because her story was reported in a local newspaper as an April Fool's Joke. 

Active: Unknown

Territory: British Columbia, Canada

Lai Sho Sz'en (Alias: Lai Choi San)

Active: Commanded 12 ships in The South China Sea

Active: 1922-1939 AD

Territory: East China

*P'en Ch' ih Ch' iko and Ki Ming

Known by name only. No English stories or other sources documenting their lives seem to exist. 

Active: 1920s- 1930s AD

Territory: East China

*Huang P' ei-mei

Led a crew of 50,000 pirates.

Active: 1937-1950s 

Sources: Anient-origins.net, Annebonnypirate.com, Brittanica.com, herstorie.com, history.com, historynet.com, mentalfloss.com, republicofpirates.com, thewayofpirates.com, wikipedia.org, The Danish History, Books I-IX by Grammaticus Saxo, Daring Pirate Women by Anne Wallace Sharp, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe. 

Who is your favorite woman pirate? We really like Sadie the Goat. The idea of wearing your severed ear as part of a necklace has a special level of toughness to it. We hope this map and infographics have armed you with useful knowledge or helped increase your interest in pirates. We'd recommend some of the resources listed below if you'd like to study up on pirate history. If you'd like more pirate entertainment, why not check out a show like Black Sails or maybe watch some pirate movies. There's even a new Pirates of the Caribbean movie here in time for summer movie season. If not anything else, be sure to dress up in Pirate costumes for International Talk Like a Pirate Day this year! Yarr!

Design Credit: Brady Johnson

Sources: ancient-origins.net, annebonnypirate.com, brittannica.com, herstorie.com, history.com, historynet.com, mentalfloss.com, republicofpirates.com, thewayofthepirates.com, wikipedia.org, The Danish History, Books I-IX by Grammaticus Saxo, Daring Pirate Women by Anne Wallace Sharp, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe

Devin Rubink
Devin Rubink

Devin Rubink is an Inbound Marketing Specialist for HalloweenCostumes.com. He is a film fanatic who enjoys watching anything from action, to comedy, to horror, and even movies that are so bad, they’re entertaining. Devin also enjoys dressing up in costumes with his daughters, although he finds it difficult to fit into some of the princess dresses. He studies Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit, to buff up his knowledge and help him achieve his dream of being a game show contestant.


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