I found this interesting article on the web. They were not all first mates.
Pirate Women's History Month
March 21, 2012 All Over the World
Johnny Depp may have made pirates seem downright hip with his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, but real-life pirates are no joke, as evidenced by the horrors perpetrated by the current throng of Somali pirates terrorizing the Gulf of Aden. Back in the heyday of piracy, colorful characters such as Blackbeard, Jean Lafitte and Henry Morgan were both revered and reviled for their acts, but the occupation wasn't the sole domain of man. Women all over the globe got in on the looting action, and since March is Women's History Month, we thought we'd share some details on a few of the world's most famous female pirates.
Perhaps the best-known was Anne Bonney (1702-1782), who sailed in the Caribbean with her lover John 'Calico Jack' Rackham and fellow female pirate Mary Read aboard their stolen sloop Revenge. The ship was captured in Jamaica, but only after the two women, along with only one male crewmember, fought fiercely to hold off the troops. The women were granted stays of execution after they "pled their bellies" (each was pregnant), but when 'Calico Jack' was being led to the gallows, Anne was less than sympathetic. "Sorry to see you there," she was reported to have told him, "but if you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog."
The so-called "Queen of the Pirates" was Gráinne Ní Mháille/Grace O'Malley (1530-1603) who commanded a fleet of 20 ships up and down Ireland's coastline, attacking any English merchant ship she could find. In England, Charlotte de Berry (c 1650s) supposedly dressed like a man to join her husband in the Royal Navy. A horrifying tale of murder, rape, shipwreck, cannibalism and suicide followed, leading scholars to suspect her story was a mere fiction.
Lady pirates weren't just found in the Caribbean and British Isles. A fifth century legend of Swedish piratess Awilda details her refusal to marry her father's choice by commandeering a ship with a group of female friends. She was elected captain by the crew of another pirate ship and was later captured by the Prince of Denmark, who, of course, married the saucy lass. In Newfoundland, Maria Lindsay (1700-1760) plied the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence with her husband Eric Cobham, and became known for giving no quarter (killing everyone they captured). According to lore, the couple practiced their trade for 20 years before settling down in France. And finally, the story of Ching Shih (1775-1844) comes from China, where the brilliant Cantonese pirate left prostitution to terrorize the China Sea with a fleet of 1,800 ships and more than 80,000 pirates. She was so powerful that the Chinese emperor offered her amnesty, which she accepted. She took her loot, opened a gambling house and lived happily for another 34 years.
Ching Shih inherited her husband's pirate fleet after he died, making her the most powerful female pirate in history...and one seriously bad-ass chick.
© 2012 Webb Logg