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Mary Read
Bonny, from an early 18th century engraving made by an artist who had
never seen her.
Mary Read and fellow female pirate Anne Bonny have
captivated the public imagination for three centuries, but
much of what has been written about them is false.

Most accounts can be traced back to a flawed description of
their lives in
The General History of the Pyrates (1724)
which holds that they both had disguised themselves as men
in order to secure jobs as sailors; they both supposedly
wound up on
Calico Jack Rackham's pirate sloop where
they took a fancy to one another - each thinking the other
was a man - only to find that they were both women.

As shown in
The Republic of Pirates, if this encounter did
take place, it happened not at sea, but in Nassau. We know
this because by the time the two became pirates, both
women -- and their genders -- were known not only to one
another, but to
Governor Woodes Rogers and other officials.
Read enters the documentary record in August,
1720, when she helped Calico Jack Rackham and
Anne Bonny steal an armed sloop from Nassau
Harbor. Her identity and gender were known to
Governor Rogers, who put out a continent wide Most
Wanted notice that named her and Bonny.

Former captives report that Bonny and Read did
indeed dress as men in battle and cursed, swore,
and fought like any other member of the crew. One
reported he only knew they were women "by the
largeness of their breasts"; another noted "they were
both very profligate, cursing and swearing much, and
very ready and willing to do anything on board."
The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man who Brought
them Down
by Colin Woodard. The Official Homepage. (c) 2008 Colin Woodard.
R.L. Stevenson
Charles Johnson
William Kidd
Henry Morgan
Henry Avery
Daniel Defoe
Cape Cod
The Bahamas
New York
North Carolina
Pirates in...
Olivier La Buse
Henry Jennings
Ben Hornigold
Paul Williams
Sam Bellamy
Charles Vane
Stede Bonnet
Anne Bonny
Mary Read
Jack Rackham
James Stuart
King George I
Thomas Walker
Gov. Hamilton
Gov. Eden
Gov. Spotswood
Woodes Rogers
Gov. Torres
Lt. Maynard
Capt. Hume
Capt. Pearse
The Authorities
According to the General History, Read had been a cross-dresser since early childhood. Her mother is said to
have raised her as a boy in the hopes of passing her off as another man's son. She subsequently served as a
sailor and foot soldier, according to this undocumented account, before being captured by pirates.
Anne Bonny and Mary Read were both mentioned by name in a 1720 proclamation
by Governor Woodes Rogers, which was published in
The Boston Gazette.

Rackham, however, was a reckless captain, and within two months had landed his entire party in a Jamaican
prison. Bonny and Read were also sentenced to be hung, but they received a stay of execution after revealing
they were both pregnant. Read did not survive her pregnancy. She died from a violent fever and her April 28,
1721 burial was  recorded in the records of St. Catherine's church in Jamaica.