Friday Five… Fearless Female Pirates

Anne Dieu-le-Veut

Hat… check. Sword… check. Parrot… check. Penchant for rum… check. Beard to twiddle while you plot your daring heist… Uh oh. Not to fear, your hopes of sailing the seven seas commandeering stolen ships and robbing doubloons won’t be dashed by as small a thing as sex.

We raise our Jolly Rogers to five female pirates, who really, really make our timbers shiver…

1. Jacquotte Delahaye


Nicknamed ‘Back from the Dead Red’ after she faked her own death to escape government pursuit, Haitian Jacquotte was a carrot top crook at large in the 1600s. Motivated by the swash-buckling equivalent of ‘a complicated back story,’ Jacquotte took up piracy to earn enough to support her mildly brain damaged brother when both her parents died. With compassion and cunning balanced in equal measure, there was some gold in her heart after all (though plundered no doubt.)

2. Pirate Queen Teuta Of Illyria

Pirate Queen Teuta

Teuta of Illyria, who became ruler of the Ardiaean Kingdom when her husband died in 231 BC, first exercised piracy as a sort of minimal effort border control in response to the hostility of neighbouring states. Realising the potential of an expeditionary force of cheap and cheerful pirates, she captured the cities of Dyrrachium and Phoenice, even attacking both Greek and Roman vessels. Rome swiftly declared war, and she was forced to surrender by some 20,000 Roman troops, and never allowed to navigate the high seas again.

3. Anne Dieu-Le-Veut

Anne Dieu-le-Veut

Already a criminal in her native Tortuga, Anne Dieu-Le-Veut was deported to France where she married pirate Pierre Length. He was killed in 1683 by fellow pirate Laurens de Graaf in a bar fight, and it’s here that the story takes a strange twist. Anne was understandably enraged and challenged Laurens to a duel, but so awe-struck by her gutsy nature, he turned down the match, and instead proposed marriage. Apparently incredibly forgiving (or might we say fickle) Anne accepted and continued to sail the seas with her felonious hubby in tow.

4 & 5. Anne Bonny and Mary Read

Bonny and Read

Our last two swashbucklers come as a pair sailing side by side. Irish Anne was born between 1667 and 1700. Disowned by her father for stabbing a servant girl and marrying pirate James Bonny, she moved to the Bahamas. Here she moved up in the freebooter ranks, leaving her husband for Jack “Calico Jack” Rackham captain of the Revenge.

Mary, on the other hand, was forced into piracy when her ship headed for the Caribbean was captured by pirates. She later ended up on Calico Jack’s ship though Anne was unaware of her fellow female buccaneer as Mary was disguised as a man. It wasn’t until Anne took a fancy to Mary’s pretty face and Calico Jack, in jealousy, threatened to make it look a little less pretty that Mary revealed herself.

Both women continued traversing the oceans until their luck ran out and the Revenge was intercepted by Captain Jonathan Barnet during a rum party. Too drunk to fight, most of the pirates left the dirty business to the women and rumour has it they did a pretty good job. All were eventually captured but the wily women evaded immediate execution by claiming they were both with child. Mary died in prison in 1721, but Anne disappears from the record, neither recorded as executed or released, and it seems we can only surmise fight (in true pirate raid fashion) she lived to fight another day.

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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