This is my 3rd and last post for “Women’s History Month” highlighting strong women through history. The first, about Russian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, can be found here. The second, featuring female pirate Anne Bonny, can be found here. Since I’m apparently obsessed with female pirates, I thought I’d continue the trend with a look at Grace O’Malley…
Born in 1530, Grace O’Malley was yet another “high-spirited” Irish woman. O’Malley was born into nobility and so was well educated. Regarded as formidable, when her father (chieftain of his clan) died, she inherited his large shipping and trading business, giving her a good start on piracy 🙂 Growing up, she’d always ask to join the fleets but was refused. Rumor has it that when she was told she couldn’t sail with her father because her hair was too long and would be caught in the rigging, she hacked it off. She was still not allowed to sail. It’s poetic justice that she inherited the business and became quite wealthy as a result.
Grace O’Malley meeting with Elizabeth I
Rejecting the traditional role of a sixteenth century woman, she commanded hundreds of men and 20 ships on raids of rival clans and merchant ships. When her half-brother and sons were captured by the English governor of Connacht, she petitioned Queen Elizabeth I to release them from prison and the two women struck a bargain. Prepared to hold up her end, once O’Malley realized the agreed-to stipulations had not been met, she went back to supporting revolutionary uprisings against the English. Grace O’Malley lived to be 70 years old and continued to be a thorn in the side of the English until her death.
That’s it for my posts celebrating Women’s History Month. I plan to post the occasional kick-ass women article as and when I can (which, let’s be honest, will be haphazard at best. I tend to identify with the slow, erratic blog movement). In honor of Independent Women everywhere, I leave you with this hilarious video of Kristen Bell and Pinksourcing. Enjoy!
In continuing my celebration of Women’s History Month (the first post featuring sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko can be found here) I thought I’d do a little more research on a woman I’d always been intrigued with: the Caribbean pirate, Anne Bonny. My husband and I are fans of Black Sails on HBO, and the writers incorporated a character based on Anne, which made me curious–how much is known about this woman who broke with convention and risked her life to live as a pirate?
Anne Bonny was born in Cork, Ireland in the late seventeenth century to a servant woman by the name of Mary Brennan and her employer, a lawyer named William McCormac. Her father moved her to London where he dressed her like a boy and called her Andy (another article I read mentioned that her mother was the one who dressed her like a boy, but we at least can be fairly certain it happened. Interesting twist, though.) When neighbors found out what he’d done, he moved her and her mother to the Carolinas and eventually became a wealthy merchant.
Anne was known to be “high spirited” and rumor has it she put a boy in the hospital for attempting to sexually assault her. Eventually, she married a small-time pirate named James Bonny and her father disowned her. She ended up in the Bahamas, where she met John “Calico Jack” Rackham and fell in love. She divorced Bonny and, joining forces with Rackham and a woman named Mary Read, absconded with a ship called the William out of Nassau harbor. Apropos, I thought.
The three pirates gathered together a crew and sailed the Caribbean taking smaller ships, racking up a fortune. Both women fought alongside the male crew members, and Anne especially was highly thought of for her ability to wield a cutlass. http://bonney-readkrewe.com/legend.html In October of 1720, an ex-pirate who was now a commander with the British navy attacked Rackham’s ship the “Revenge” and captured all aboard. Apparently, the pirates were drunk from celebrating the capture of a Spanish commercial ship. Go figure. Drunk pirates… Anyway, all were tried as pirates in Port Royal and found guilty, and were sentenced to death by hanging. Anne and Mary “plead their bellies” and were spared. Mary died in prison from fever, but Anne was said to have been sprung from jail by her father. Rumor has it she remarried and lived well into her dotage.
Next week: more female pirates!