famous female Pirate
Also known as Mark Read.
Mary Read was illegitimately born in England, to the widow of a sea captain. She was raised as a boy, replacing a brother who died in childhood.
She joined the British military (as a man) allied with Dutch forces against the French (this could have been during the Nine Years War or during the War of the Spanish Succession). In male disguise, she proved herself through battle, but fell in love with a Flemish soldier. When they married, she used their military commission and gifts from intrigued brethren in arms as a funding source to acquire an inn named "De drie hoefijzers" ("The Three Horseshoes") near Breda Castle in The Netherlands.
Upon her husband's early death, Read resumed male dress and military service in Holland. With peace, there was no room for advancement, so she quit and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.
The ship was taken by pirates who forced her to join them. She received the King's pardon about 1718, but in 1720 she signed on with pirate "Calico Jack" Rackham. One of his crew was the female pirate Anne Bonny.
The two women ended up being good friends and were generally regarded as very capable fighters. Calico Jack was getting jealous of their close friendship, so he was let in on the secret of her sex, also.
In October 1720, pirate hunter Jonathan Barnet took Calico Jack's ship by surprise, disabling it with a volley of cannon fire. The drunken pirate crew fled to the hold, leaving the women and one other pirate topside to fight off Barnet's boarding party. Mary was so enraged at their drunken cowardice that she discharged a pistol into the hold, killing one pirate and wounding another. Barnet's crew soon overcame the women and captured the pirate crew. They were brought to trial in Saint Lago de la Vega, Jamaica, on November 28 and sentenced to hang. Both women escaped hanging by "pleading the belly," meaning they were pregnant, so they received a temporary stay of execution. Mary Read died in prison.
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