1 Apr 2014

Mary Read


Mary Read (died 1721) aka Mark Read, was an English pirate. She and Anne Bonny are two of the most famed female pirates of all time; they are the only two women 
known to have been convicted of piracy during the early 18th century, at the height of the Golden Age of Piracy. Mary Read was illegitimately born in England, in the late 
17th century, to the widow of a sea captain. Her date of birth is disputed among historians because of a reference to the "Peace of Ryswick" by her contemporary biographer 
Captain Charles Johnson in A General History of the Pirates. He very well may have made an error, intending to refer to the "Treaty of Utrecht". Whichever it is, her birth 
was at 1691. Read's mother began to disguise illegitimately born Mary as a boy after the death of Mary's older, legitimate brother Mark. This was done in order to continue 
to receive financial support from his paternal grandmother. The grandmother was apparently fooled, and Read and her mother lived on the inheritance into her teenage years. 
Still dressed as a boy, Read then found work as a foot boy, and later found employment on a ship. She later joined the British military, allied with Dutch forces against the 
French (this could have been during the Nine Years War or during the War of the Spanish Succession). Read, in male disguise, proved herself through battle, but she fell in 
love with a Flemish soldier. When they married, she used their military commission and gifts from intrigued brethren in arms as a funding source to acquire an inn named 
"De drie hoefijzers" (The Three Horseshoes") near Breda Castle in The Netherlands. Upon her husband's early death, Read resumed male dress and military service in 
Holland. With peace, there was no room for advancement, so she quit and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.

Mary Read's ship was taken by pirates, who forced her to join them. She took the King's pardon c.1718-1719, and took a commission to privateer, until that ended with her 
joining the crew in mutiny. In 1720 she joined pirate John "Calico Jack" Rackham and his companion, the female pirate Anne Bonny.
Read remained dressed as a man at first. Nobody knew that Read was female until Bonny began to take a liking to Read thinking she was a handsome young 
fellow.[citation needed] That forced Read to reveal to Bonny that she was a woman. Rackham, who was Bonny's lover, became jealous of the intimacy between them and 
threatened to cut the throat of Bonny's new paramour. To prevent Read's death, Rackham was also let in on the secret; following, Rackham decided to break male seafaring 
tradition by allowing both women to remain on the crew. During their brief cruise in late 1720, they took several prisoners and forced them into useful service. Read fell in love 
with one such victim who was surprised to learn that she was a woman and eventually returned the affection. When one of the pirates challenged her lover to a duel, Read 
contrived a secret duel to occur a couple hours earlier. She killed the pirate before he could bring any harm to her lover, whom she called "husband" as they made vows to 
each other in absence of a minister.was an English pirate who sailed with "Calico Jack" Rackham and Anne Bonny. Although little is known for sure about her former life, 
she was well-known as a pirate from 1718 to 1720. When captured, she was spared hanging because she was pregnant but died shortly thereafter due to illness. Most of 
the little that is known about Mary Read comes from Captain Charles Johnson (believed by many, but not all, pirate historians to be a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe). Johnson 
was descriptive, but never mentioned his sources, so most of her background is in doubt. Read was supposedly born sometime around 1690 to the widow of a sea captain. 
Mary’s mother dressed her up as a boy to pass her off as her older brother, who had died, in order to get money out of Mary’s paternal grandmother. Mary found she liked 
dressing as a boy and as a young “man” found work as a soldier and sailor. Mary was fighting for the British in Holland when she met and fell in love with a Flemish soldier. 

She revealed her secret to him and they married. They operated an inn named “the Three Horseshoes” not far from the castle at the town of Breda. When her husband died, 
Mary could not operate the inn alone so she went back to war, but a peace was soon signed and she was out of work. She took a ship to the West Indies. While en route to 
the West Indies, Read’s ship was attacked and captured by pirates. Read decided to join them and for a while lived the life of a pirate in the Caribbean before accepting the 
king’s pardon in 1718. Like many former pirates, she signed on board a privateer commissioned to hunt down those buccaneers who had not accepted the pardon. It didn’t 
last long, as the whole crew soon mutinied and took over the ship. By 1720 she had found her way on board the pirate ship of “Calico Jack” Rackham. Calico Jack already 
had a woman on board: his lover, Anne Bonny, who had left her husband for a life of piracy. According to legend, Anne developed an attraction for Mary, not knowing she 
was a woman. When Anne tried to seduce her, Mary revealed herself. According to some accounts, they became lovers anyway, with Rackham’s blessing (or participation). 
In any event, Anne and Mary were two of Rackham’s most bloodthirsty pirates. Mary was a good fighter. According to legend, she developed an attraction for a man who had 
been forced to join the pirate crew. The object of her affection managed to irritate a certain cutthroat on board who challenged him to a duel. Mary, fearing that her would-be 
lover might get killed, challenged the brute to a duel of her own, timing it for a couple of hours before the other duel was supposed to take place. 

She promptly killed the 
pirate, in the process saving the object of her attentions. By late 1720, Rackham and his crew were well-known as dangerous pirates, and bounty hunters were sent out to 
capture or kill them. Captain Jonathan Barnet cornered Rackham's ship in late October of 1720. According to some accounts, Anne and Mary fought valiantly while the men 
hid below deck. Rackham and the other male pirates were quickly tried and hanged in Port Royal on November 18, 1720. Bonny and Read, at their trial, declared that they 
were pregnant, and it was soon determined to be true. They would be spared the gallows until such time as they had given birth. Mary Read never got to taste freedom 
again: she developed a fever and died in prison not long after her trial, probably sometime in early 1721. In October 1720, pirate hunter Captain Jonathan Barnet took 
Rackham's crew by surprise while they were hosting a rum party with another crew of Englishmen off the west coast of Jamaica. After a volley of fire left the pirate vessel 
disabled, Rackham's crew and their "guests" fled to the hold, leaving only the women and one other to fight Barnet's boarding party. Allegedly, Read angrily shot into the 
hold, killing one, wounding others when the men would not come up and fight with them. Barnet's crew eventually overcame the women. Rackham surrendered, requesting 
"quarter." Rackham and his crew were arrested and brought to trial in what is now known as Spanish Town, Jamaica, where they were sentenced to hang for acts of piracy, 
as were Read and Bonny. However, the women escaped the noose when they revealed they were both "quick with child" (known as "Pleading the belly"), so they received a 
temporary stay of execution. Read died in prison in April 1721, but there is no record of burial of her baby.
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