PostHeaderIcon Ancient Buccaneers: Mary Read

The 17th and 18th century pirates in the Atlantic seas have captured cultural imagination, transforming these seafaring thieves and murderers into symbols of freedom and rebellion. There are few kids in North America who haven’t dreamed of sailing the high seas at some point in their young lives. While there are many famous male pirates, there were also a select few female ones, and Mary Read is one of the most well known, being one of only two women to be convicted of piracy in the 1700s.

Mary was born illegitimately in England, roughly around the 1680s. Her mother, a widow, disguised the young girl as a boy after her older brother died, in order to continue receiving an inheritance promised to the boy from a grandfather. As a teenager, the disguised Mary found work on a ship, joining the British military and proving herself to be a capable soldier. She fell in love with a Flemish ally, and they married, but he died tragically a few years later.

Upon becoming a widow, Read resumed dressing as a male and boarded a ship bound for the West indies in the 1710s. The vessel was captured by pirates, who forced  Mary to join them (not realizing her true gender). While working with the pirate Calico Jack Rackham, she was forced to reveal herself. Jack’s lover, Anne Bonny, thought that Mary was a handsome young man, and tried to seduce her. The crew was famous for working out of Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas, which was a haven for pirates during the early 1700s.

In 1720, after several years of looting and raiding with the best of them, Rackham’s crew was captured in a surprise raid in Jamaica while docked in port. Read was brought to trial with the rest of the group, but she and Bonny were both spared execution when they claimed that they were both pregnant. Mary died in prison, from a fever associated with the process of childbirth, in April 1721.

Nowadays, Nassau is no longer a pirate stronghold, but instead a vibrant capital of a growing island commonwealth. The Bahamas is an increasingly popular tourist destination, and there are lots of deals on cheap vacations to its many gorgeous islets. Theatlantis bahamas deals, for instance, will give you a taste of paradise without breaking the bank.


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