Women Pirates: Bonny and Read

Assess the roles that women and people of color played in the pirate social world and compare to popular depictions of pirates (CO#4, CO#5). Examine the treatment of gender and race in the world of piracy in comparison to the larger European historical context (CO#4) During the 18th century, women were expected to become wives and, eventually, mothers. Although they frequently worked in family trades and on family farms, having independent careers was not a possibility. And, in most cases, women had no power in choosing their mates in marriage, as the institution was often considered a business arrangement. Parents usually arranged their daughters’ marriages. Women had very few options in the early 18th century outside of marriage and raising children. Moreover, it was very unlikely that women could find employment as sailors on merchant vessels in the early 18th century. Sailing vessels were male-dominated worlds that completely barred the presence of women as workers. Most women could only expect to sail on vessels as passengers in this era. However, some women joined the pirates of the Golden Age. We have considerable information on two famous pirates: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. The careers of these two pirates present an important counter-narrative to the accepted popular conception of the male-dominated world of pirates.