Captain Charles Johnson in his General History of the Pyrates (1724) described how in action ‘no Body was more forward or courageous’ than Mary Reed and Anne Bonny on the pirate John Rackam’s ship. Indeed, Johnson suggested that Rackam was something of a coward and that before he was executed Bonny visited him and told him that ‘if he had fought like a Man, he need not have been hang’d like a Dog’.
This talk explores some of the myths and realities about female pirates from the 16th to 18th centuries. It will examine their experiences at sea and on shore and the ways in which they have been depicted in popular culture. As well as looking at well-known pirates like Bonny, Read and Grace O’Malley this talk will also look at some of the lesser-known women who came into contact with pirates such as women who aided and abetted them on shore or those taken captive at sea.
Dr Elaine Murphy is Associate Professor of Maritime History at the University of Plymouth. She teaches a module on Piracy and Privateering and has published on the history of piracy and the British Civil Wars at Sea. She is currently working on a project about women and the navy in the 17th century.
National Maritime Museum Cornwall Members receive a 10% discount on in-person tickets.