International Women’s Day

Heroines of the Sea

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were a force to be reckoned with.

Anne Bonny and Mary Read were a force to be reckoned with.

 

We recently celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s been recognized since 1901 though most countries celebrate it on March 08. Since it’s a time to honor the achievements of women everywhere, I thought it might be a proper time to recognize some of women’s accomplishments in the realm of the sea.

In a recent post A Lifetime Commitment, I focused on the extraordinary sacrifices men and women of the armed forces made to keep us safe. In light of this special occasion, let’s look at some of the women who, for good or bad, impacted the world in which they lived.

Cheng I Sao, who lived between 1775 and 1844, rose from a life of prostitution to commander of twenty to forty thousand pirates when her husband Cheng I died. It was her wits and shrewd political maneuvering more than physical prowess that was her strength. And she was no one’s patsy. Part of the code she established was the beheading of anyone who gave their own orders or disobeyed those given.

Grace O’Malley, sometimes known as Grainne O’Malley or Granuaile was an Irish pirate of the 1500’s. As commander of three galleys and two hundred men, she was a force to be reckoned with. Not only was she fearless on the water, but when she met Queen Elizabeth face to face, she refused to bow or curtsey because she did not recognize her as the queen of Ireland.

Anne Bonny, on the other hand, was a died-in-the-wool Caribbean pirate, who sailed with Calico Jack Rackham. Rackham stole Ann from her husband and embarked on a wild ride of piracy as lovers.

Mary Read likewise served on Rackham‘s ship, shoulder to shoulder with Anne Bonny and the other pirates; Bonny was unaware Mary was a woman till Ann made a pass at her mistaking her for a man. Both fought as valiantly as any man on board. In fact, when Rackham and his crew cowered in a drunken state below deck during a brutal attack, the two women fought tooth and nail with the King’s troops before surrendering. Continue reading →