Anne Bonny and Mary Read: Female Pirates and Maritime Women (Page Two)

The Sailor's Return, 1744

The Sailor’s Return, 1744

Note to the Readers: This is a two-page article.  This is page two of two, featuring the third and fourth sections of the article.  For sections one and two, which cover Anne Bonny and Mary Read, see PAGE ONE (Click Here).

Other Women Pirates and Female Interactions with Pirates

For the period of 1680 to 1740, Anne Bonny and Mary Read are almost the only examples of women who went onboard pirate ships and actively participated in piracy.  The exception to the famous pair is a woman named Mary Critchett.  In May of 1729, a group of six convicts, transported from England and sold in Virginia, ran away from their masters and banded together to steal a vessel.  The crew managed to hijack a sloop, the John and Elizabeth, in the middle of the night of May 12, without any weapons.  The group sailed the vessel out of the Piankatank River and into the Chesapeake Bay for several days, and eventually let the master of the sloop and his servant leave in a flat boat.  There are no details of when or who caught the five men and Critchett.  Since their trial showed the convicts had limited maritime skills, and the charges in court all concerned the John and Elizabeth, it appears someone caught them in the Chesapeake Bay before they could go to sea and attack other vessels.  During this briefest of pirate careers, Critchett’s most significant actions as a pirate included sitting on a hatch to prevent their two prisoners from escaping and arguing against allowing the prisoners to leave since they would tell the authorities.  The court found her guilty of piracy along with the rest of the crew.  There are currently no known documents showing authorities carried out this execution.  While Critchett’s piracy consisted of two minor acts on her part, and lasted a shorter amount of time than the already brief careers of Bonny and Read, it is the only other example of a woman pirate for this period.[1]

While Bonny, Read, and Critchett are the only known women to have committed piracy, there is one other woman of this period that a British court charged with piracy, named Martha Farley.[2]  In May of 1727, four men, mostly locals of the Carolinas struggling to make a living, gathered together and took the schooner Anne and Francis off Ocracoke Island.  Over the next few days, they captured one sloop and raided another that wrecked on Ocracoke Inlet.  The short career of these pirates ended when three prisoners subdued the pirate’s leader, John Vidal, in a boat while returning from a trip on shore.  The other pirates and their prisoners then left the schooner and went ashore, where an informant told local authorities of the pirates’ presence.  Residents of the area captured the remaining pirates, except for Thomas Farley, Martha Farley’s husband.  During their cruise, Martha did not take part in any acts of piracy, according to the testimony of the court’s witnesses.  She likely spent much of her time tending to her two children that accompanied her during the voyage.  While on the schooner, she eavesdropped on conversations and told her husband of anything she overheard.  She did benefit from the piracies of her husband on at least one occasion.  Thomas Farley stole a pair of women’s shoes from one of the sloop’s masters and gave them to Martha.  At the trial, Martha testified she followed her husband from South Carolina after her children begged her to, even though she had no idea what her husband’s plans were.  Having no significant evidence of her committing piracy, and with the future of two children to consider, the court dismissed the charges of piracy against Martha Farley.[3]

While there are no other examples of pirate women for this era, there is evidence that some women stayed with pirates onboard their ships voluntarily.  In the late 1680s, Captain John Bear, a Jamaican privateer, who became a pirate and then served under the Spanish, carried a woman with him whom he disguised in men’s clothes.  Later in his career, Bear tried to pass his lover, the daughter of a, “rum-punch woman of Port Royal,” off as a noblewoman in Cuba, where they were both married.[4]  In 1716, Captain Evans of the Greyhound noted in his letter to Charles Johnson the presence of two women, passengers from another vessel, onboard the pirate ship of Captain Kennedy.  Evans stated that he knew not, “how they pass’ed their Time,” and thought, “they had formerly made a Trip or two to the Bay, there was no Rape committed.”[5]  The “Bay” refers to the Bay of Campeche, where a community of logwood cutters, which included many former mariners and some pirates, lived and cut the precious wood used by Europeans to make dyes.  The reference to Campeche, along with the rape comment, is Evan’s manner of suggesting the women had voluntarily sexual encounters with the pirates.[6]  On another occasion, a group of about thirty female felons, sentenced to transportation, happened to be on the convict ship captured by pirates commanded by Richard Worley, off the Virginia Capes in October of 1718.  Many of the women wanted to escape to a remote part of the Bahamas where they could build a new home away from government authorities.  As a result, the women began to form sexual relationships with the pirates; many hoping such acts would consummate a marriage they could use to satisfy their ambitions, or at least some kind of security from the other pirates onboard.  Unfortunately, these women’s dreams ended when the pirates were defeated in a battle off South Carolina, resulting in the end of their lives at the gallows in Charleston, along with their pirate “husbands.”[7]

While Martha Farley followed her pirate husband to the waters of North Carolina, and the female convicts captured by Worley’s men made husbands of some pirates at sea, many other wives to pirates remained on land.  In the past decade, scholars of pirate history emphasized that many pirates left wives behind when they went pirating or found wives after returning from a cruise.  This is especially true for men who sailed from British colonies to raid the Indian Ocean in the late seventeenth century.  In the 1690s, many colonies allowed the pirates to return to their ports since they brought hard currency and precious commodities which colonists found difficult to obtain.[8]  Evidence of the loving relationship held between pirates in Madagascar and their wives back in the colonies survive through a handful of letters sent to and from the pirates at their base on St. Mary’s Island.[9]  Down in the Bay of Campeche, when said logwood cutters chose a leader from among themselves, who they called their King, said leader’s “consort” gained the title of Queen.[10]  Considering the presence of this consort, along with Captain Evan’s comment regarding two women on a pirate ship having come from the Bay of Campeche, it appears that some of the logwood men had wives or lovers while working in their logging camps.  While most British colonies no longer allowed pirates to enter their ports in the 1710s and 1720s, several of the early pirates who used the Bahama Islands as a base after the War of Spanish Succession were also local inhabitants with wives and children.[11]  When they needed to force men to join their crews, particularly in the late 1710s and early 1720s, other pirates saw wives and families as a hazard, since they could tempt a pirate to abandon their crew and return to their homes.  This resulted in several pirate crews preferring not to press married men.[12]  While the number of pirate wives appeared to decline somewhat once ports began to no longer welcome pirates, these sea raiders proved to be no exception to the same desires that many men of the era had in regards to marriage.

Pirates fraternized with both European and African women during their various travels in the Atlantic World and Indian Ocean.  When pirates sailed around Africa during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, they often visited the African coast and interacted with local African women.  Captain William Snelgrave, a prisoner to three pirate crews in 1719 off the coast of Sierra Leone, described how the three pirate captains took his coats he intended to use in trade with the Africans.  The pirates hoped that the colors and trimming of the coats would thrill the African women.[13]  The white men that lived at the mouth of the Sierra Leone River, “did not scruple to lend their black Wives to the Pirates, purely on account of the great Rewards they gave.”[14]  On Madagascar, pirates and the resident traders who provided supplies to these pirates married local Malagasy women, sometimes to multiple women.  They did so not only to satisfy their desires, but also to integrate themselves into local tribes who fought against each other on a regular basis.  Tribal wars resulted in capturing slaves that they could sell to merchants from the American colonies.[15]  For black women in the western hemisphere, a pirate’s desire did not differ from those of any other Europeans, who frequently had relations with the mostly enslaved black women and produced many mixed race children.[16]  Plenty of these black women did not submit to the pirates’ desires willing, only going to them because their masters or husbands made them, though Snelgrave claimed a small number of these women were, “very fond of their Company, for the sake of the great Presents they [the pirates] gave them.”[17]  Even if some of these women liked the company of the pirates, many other black women saw themselves as victims and not as their willing partners.

Due to the romanticization of pirates over the past three hundred years, there is often negligence of the horrible reality that pirates victimized some of the women they encountered.  Some historians also ignored these crimes in their studies of pirates.  One historian, named B.R. Burg, went so far as to claim the pirates had an, “almost childish reverence for captured females.”[18]  A survey of the historical record demonstrates the opposite of Burg’s claim.  While the strong majority of ships consisted of only male crews, occasionally pirates encountered women as passengers on ships or during their occasional raids on land.  In 1708, the French pirate Martel attacked the Bahama Islands and took sloop of Edward Holmes off Harbour Island, in the Bahamas.  The pirates wanted to force Holmes’ into telling them where he hid his wealth and used the threat of throwing Holmes’ wife overboard, whom they also stripped and searched while they pointed a pistol at her breast.[19]  Martel’s men also beat the belly of a pregnant mother with a cutlass to the point of causing her to miscarry.  They also burned another female alive in her own house.[20]  Women were not completely exempt as targets of violence, and thus suffered from some of the same physical violence men did at the hands of the more hostile pirates.

The most common type of violence pirates inflicted on women was sexual assault, specifically rape.  Considering the criminal characteristics of piracy, the highly masculine environment on ships, and the cases of some crews staying out at sea for extended periods, it is not surprising that rape against female captives sometimes occurred.  When Henry Every’s crew took the Ganj-i-Sawai in 1695 during his raid into the Indian Ocean, the crew tortured and ravaged the prisoners onboard, including the female passengers.[21]  One Indian historian reported that the pirates, “busied themselves for a week searching for plunder, stripping the men, and dishonouring the women, both old and young…Several honourable women, when they found an opportunity, threw themselves into the sea, to preserve their chastity, and some others killed themselves with knives and daggers.”[22]  In 1721, a pirate sloop under Thomas Anstis took the Irish ship Irwin off Martinique.  Twenty of the pirates onboard took a female passenger and then gang raped her, “one after another, and afterwards broke her Back, and slung her into the Sea.”[23]  On another occasion, two female prisoners remained onboard Charles Vane’s ship for an extended period, “for their own Entertainment, contrary to the usual Practice of Pyrates, who generally sent them away, least they should occasion Contention.”[24]  In Bartholomew Roberts’ crew, a William Mead forced the hooped petticoat off a female passenger named Elizabeth Trengove, but another pirate saved her from further harassment by having her hide in the gunner’s room.[25]  Captain Martel’s French pirates, while raiding the Bahamas in 1708, raped the daughters of Samuel Knowles.[26]  In 1709, Jamaica privateers raided and ravished the American Indian women on the island of Dominica.[27]  This collection of examples from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century demonstrates, according to historian John Appleby, “a growing victimization of women,” during that period.[28]  Even though several pirate crews, specifically Howell Davis, John Taylor, Bartholomew Roberts, and Thomas Anstis, had rules in their crew’s articles of agreement about the treatment of women onboard their ships, these rules did not stop the pirates from occasionally committing these horrible acts against the women they encountered.[29]

From the Merry Wives of Wapping, c.1670s.

From the Merry Wives of Wapping, c.1670s.

Women in the Atlantic Maritime World

To understand the women who interacted with pirates, it is important to have context for the experiences of women during this period, specifically women in the greater Atlantic maritime world.  For the period of 1680-1740, particularly in the 1710s and early 1720s, most pirates worked as mariners before entering into their illegal sea raiding careers.[30]  The experience of a pirate often mirrored that of a sailor for most of his life.  Both sailors and pirates encountered many of the same types of women in their lifetimes.  Understanding women in the maritime world, and where they would have interacted with mariners, also helps bring context to encounters between women and pirates.

Though it is a common cliché that mariners saw women as causes of bad luck onboard ships, it did not stop a small number of women from going to sea during this period.  The concept in folklore that mariners saw women at sea as bad luck holds a significant amount of truth, but the stories seldom explain these sailors’ wariness of females on ships.  The key to this superstition is understanding that harsh conditions and the masculine setting that was a ship in the Age of Sail decreased not only employment opportunities for women on ships, it reduced the appeal of living at sea to females.  This contributed to fewer women going to sea and further establishment of the ship as a masculine world.  The male sailors themselves understood the dangers of service at sea.  Many mariners concluded that their female acquaintances were better off staying safe on land and not living with them at sea.  It is significant to note that the superstition of women at sea never turned into a large-scale taboo against ever having them onboard.[31]

Women came onboard ships in several different ways during this period.  Female travelers, immigrants, convicts sentenced to transportation, indentured servants, and slaves all required passage on ships to get to their final destinations.  No matter if onboard by choice or involuntarily, these women seldom went to sea without either being in groups or without having some kind of guardian watching over them.  While some single women might voluntarily go and interact with sailors onboard, and potentially create contentions between crewmembers, instances of uncommonly atrocious mariners on long voyages raping unwilling and undefended female passengers sometimes occurred.  Slave women during their transport from Africa to the Caribbean and other colonies were some of the most vulnerable targets to rape, though captains and owners did show some concern over these sexual assaults since they might cause damage to the enslaved woman, whom they considered property.  Situations like these contributed another reason for women not wanting to go to sea and men preferring that women avoided going to sea.[32]

While limited in number, a few women did go onboard to follow their husbands or loved ones, especially if it the man was an officer.  In merchant vessels, women rarely accompanied men to sea.[33]  Considering that many merchant ventures were short and profit-driven, it is not surprising that many men on civilian vessels forewent the cost of bringing their wives, especially if the voyage only lasted for a few months.  The British Navy saw more women onboard their ships than the merchant service.  It is hard to determine the exact number of women who went to sea in the Navy since their regulations did not allow women onboard without permission.  Many ships ignored the regulations and brought them onboard without seeking approval.  Since women were not part of a ship’s crew, and thus received no rations, it made their presence in Navy records limited.  Husbands had to share their rations or buy food to feed their wives.  By the late seventeenth century, it became common to see the occasional wife of a warrant officer, meaning positions such as gunner, boatswain, and carpenter.  Warrant officers often stayed with the same ship for long periods, often spanning years.  If captains did not allow the wives of these skilled officers onboard, it might have dissuaded them from staying with their ships.  Captains, commissioned officers, and specialists also had wives aboard on occasion.  Like warrant officers, they could afford women more private sleeping quarters than those offered to the rest of the crew, had an exclusive eating area onboard separate from the rest of the crew, and their higher pay rates meant they could afford the cost of the women’s food and other needs.  Common sailors, the least likely member of the crew to have a wife onboard, could seldom offer similar benefits.  While a mariner might see an officer’s wife on occasion, men still dwarfed the number of non-passenger women onboard ships by a significant margin.[34]

Well-documented cases of women disguising themselves as male sailors are difficult to find before 1740.  It is hard to determine if this means less women went to sea as sailors before the mid eighteenth century, if popular literature helped bring more attention to these women after 1740, if the smaller size of the maritime population before 1740 resulted in fewer instances of women mariners, or some combination of these explanations.  There are two separate examples from the 1690s of two gentlewomen, Anne Chamberlyne and Narcissus Luttrell, serving in the English Navy during battle while disguised as men, though both cases lack corroborative evidence beyond the original sources that informed of their existence in the first place.[35]  A ballad from 1693, The Maiden Sailor, describes the story of a disguised woman at sea.  The author, John Curtin, a sailor on the warship Edgar, discovered the woman while at sea.  The woman’s motivation to serve came come from feelings of patriotism for her country, inspired by her husband who served in the English army in Flanders.  Curtin noticed her lack of a masculine tone in her voice, which led him to investigate and discover the sailor was a woman.  After the revelation of her true sex, the ship’s captain discharged her from the service. This story is probably fictional.  Besides lacking corroborate from the period, it also followed the same patterns as many other street ballads of the day.[36]  While not a sailor, there is one case of a women disguised as a soldier having her identity revealed while at sea.  On a voyage from England to the Cape Coast Castle in Africa in 1693, one of the soldiers destined for service at the castle fell ill.  The surgeon’s mate, “was surpriz’d to find more sally-ports than he expected,” before administering a treatment to the soldier.[37]  The soldier was actually a twenty-year old woman.  The surgeon, Thomas Phillips, had a tailor onboard make her a dress, which the woman repaid Phillips for by doing his laundry during the rest of the voyage.[38]  Little evidence of these disguised maritime women exists before 1740, though what does exist suggests that out of the tens of thousands of British sailors at sea, there were only a few exceptional cases, at best, sailing the Atlantic at any one time.

Many women became familiar with the maritime world without ever going to sea, since many sailors married and raised families while ashore.  During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the status of women highly depended on her marriage and the relationship she had with her husband.[39]  In Western Europe, 25.7 years old was the average age of a woman’s first marriage during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Colonial English women usually married between the ages of 20 and 22.  In the colonies, almost all women of marrying age eventually married, though in Europe, 8% to 13% of women never married.[40] The mariner was not exempt from society’s expectations.  In his work, The Wooden World Dissected, early eighteenth-century satirist Edward Ward said the sailor, “has a Wife, that’s certain,” and that, “marry he must, because his Fore-Fathers did so before him; and seldom does he miss of an admirable Breeder.”[41]  Western European men usually married around the age of 28 during this period.[42]  The strong majority of common sailors fell below the age of 28, with those beyond that age consisting of captains, masters, various officers, and destitute common sailors.[43]  While plenty of mariners married before retiring from sea career and married at a younger age than the average age of 28, these statistics suggests some common sailors retired from serving at sea in their late 20s or early 30s and the settled down to marriage and a more stable form of land employment.

The demands of a sailor’s career often placed heavy burdens on their wives.  Not all mariners stayed out at sea for the same lengths of time.  Many sailors sailed on short voyages that lasted a few months, and switched between land and sea employment.  Coastal trading and fishing did not need to stay out at sea for years at a time.  Many New England sailors spent more time on land than at sea during their lives as mariners.[44]  Meanwhile, other sailors spent most of their lives pursuing a career at sea and spent many years onboard ships.  Some voyages, such as those sailing to the East Indies, required spending over a year at sea.  The late seventeenth century also saw changes in English naval policy that influenced the length of service for sailors.  Instead of releasing their men after the typical summer-length voyage, as they had for many wars before the Third Anglo-Dutch War of the 1670s, they kept them in the service and turned crews over from one ship to another, resulting in men staying at sea for several years.  This dismayed many wives, especially those whose husbands entered the service involuntarily because of the Navy’s use of press gangs to recruit men.[45]  Edward Ward’s satirical note about a sailor going on a voyage after his wedding night and not returning for three years is not a far-fetched exaggeration.[46]  The long periods of waiting for the return of their sailor husbands, who may never come home since service at sea posed many deadly dangers, pained many women.  The ballad, The Merry Wives of Wapping, expressed well the way many of these women felt. While the men went to sea, their wives remained home, suffering from feelings of loneliness, the pressures of chastity, and the fear of the unknown fates of their sailor husbands at sea. [47]

These women had no choice but to act independently and look after their own livelihood while their mariner husbands were at sea.  When the men were away, these wives had no choice but to become “deputy husbands,” and to, “live by their own hand.”[48]  Making a living while their husbands worked at sea required significant amounts of effort on the part of the wives left at home, especially if they had children.  It is likely why mariner Edward Barlow noted that his wife could not have been, “more agreeable and industrious, and it doth much behove all seamen’s wives to be the same.”[49]  Women struggled to gain any money from their husband’s pay before he returned home from a voyage in the Navy since there was no system for wives to receive their husbands’ pay while they were at sea.  Many ended up seeking help from public charities or begged in the streets for money.[50]  Some women did become industrious and made livings without receiving charity.  A few conducted businesses on the behalf of their husbands.  They not only learned to read and write, but also kept and settled accounts regarding their husbands’ work.[51]  Wives sometimes acquired the skills and knowledge of their husband’s trade, but only on an informal level.[52]  A few women did managed to pick up maritime skills from their husbands.[53]  In New London, Connecticut, mariner Jonathan Prentis, arranged an apprenticeship of eight-year old William Chapell in the, “mariner’s art and navigation,” in February of 1695, though stipulated that his wife, who apparently possessed these skills as well, should continue the apprenticeship if Jonathan died before its completion.[54]  While some women could manage their husband’s affairs, the majority of wives did not happen to be so fortunate and either relied upon begging, charity, or a few other types of employment open to women.

In urban settings, where most sailors and their wives resided, there were only a few means for women to find respectable employment, many of them related to the clothing industry.  Domestic servants made up the largest type of employment for women in cities, around 25% of those working in London.  However, most poor sailors’ wives did not have the required social connections to acquire these positions.[55]  Since mothers often taught their daughters to sew when they were children, many young single women found work as seamstresses, especially as makers of ready-made clothing.[56]  Some of these women produced ready-made clothing for sailors, often referred to as slop clothing.  A subcontractor to William Franklin, one of the few men to hold the sole contract to supply slop clothes to the British Navy in the early eighteenth century, had a subcontractor named Richard Martin who employed at least three seamstresses in 1713, named Rebeca Mason, Mary Webb, and Mary Demeeres.[57]  A few women established modest shops for slop making and clothing production, such as Sarah Finlason, a slop-seller in St. Katherine’s in Wapping, though woman-owned shops made up less than 10% of all the shops in London and held significantly less capital than ones run by men.[58]  Making, mending, and obtaining clothing extended into the lives of every town in the Anglo-American world.  Women could buy materials for making new clothes and sell the garments they produced.  They could also patch used clothes for a small fee, or sell used clothes they acquired to second-hand clothing vendors.[59]  Since these women could spin yarn, sew garments, mend holes, trade goods, and launder clothes for a living, they often knew where the best and cheapest places to obtain clothing for sailors were, who would want to obtain their maritime attire at the best prices possible.  For instance, when John Cremer needed to go to sea in the 1710s, the wife of one of his former shipmates helped him by going out and purchasing, “Shirts, Stockings, Hankerchifs &c, with a Chest, which she did anuf Suitabile for me for two Years,” for a total cost of forty shillings.[60]  While many of these means of employment required hard work, many women found this employment better than starving or other less respectable forms of employment.

These three images come from the Criers and Hawkers of London in the late 1680s. From Left to Right, a London Beggar and her Children, a Hawker of Crabs, and a Hawker of Mackrell.

Many wives of sailors in port towns, and young poor single women in general, resorted to prostitution.  If women exhausted the jobs offered from the clothing industry, could not make enough money hawking marketplace goods such as oysters and fish, or found charities and begging to be fruitless, prostitution often stood as their last means of employment.[61]  From a societal standpoint, prostitutes held no social status and received significant amounts of disdain for engaging in this work, even though most ports did not outlaw prostitution and many men visited and paid them for their services.  They were often independent of a husband, father, or male siblings, which also legally reduced their status.  Most prostitutes were in their teenage years, frequently below 18 years of age, with many of them under 12 years old.[62]  Some prostitutes also picked the pockets of their customers.  These prostitutes often avoided arrest for theft because many of the victims felt too embarrassed to admit they had hired a prostitute to authorities.[63]  Prostitutes often came in many shapes, sizes, and conditions. Edward Ward described many of them in the London Spy, including one of the younger prostitutes, “of about a Dozen Years of Age, whom I suppose, they were early draging up in the wicked Ways of Shame and Misery.”[64]  Ward divided these women into three different categories.  There were the well-off professionals who were, “very well drest, and in Masks,” the full time prostitutes of less wealth who were, “bare-Fac’d, and in mean Garbs, whose Poverty seem’d equal with their Impudence,” and finally the part time prostitutes who were the, “sort of Scoundrel Strumpets in Blew-Aprons and Straw-Hats.”[65]  Since Navy ships often prevented sailors from going ashore for fear of them not returning to their ships, the prostitutes and some of the legitimate wives of sailors visited these ships while they were at anchor.  Onboard, the women spent the night drinking, partying, and engaging in sexual relations where everyone could see them.  This also occurred in both English ports and foreign ports.  In the West Indies, officers sometimes arranged nights for plantation owners to send large groups of female slaves onboard to act as prostitutes.[66]  One of the most well known accounts of these women on a warship from the late seventeenth century came from a chaplain named Henry Teonge.  He describes a scene where sailors and women sang, “Loth to depart in punch and brandy,” and stated, “You would have wondered to see here a man and a woman creep into a hammock, the woman’s legs to the hams hanging over the sides or out at the ends of it.  Another couple sleeping on a chest; others kissing and clipping; half drunk, half sober or rather half asleep.”[67]  Be it onshore or afloat, prostitutes stood as one of the most common ways sailors encountered women during their maritime careers.

Women who ran lodging houses, inns, and public houses frequently interacted with sailors since they spent much of their money in these institutions.  Some sailors, particular those in the colonies, had homes with their families and wives.  If a mariner had no family or wife in that port, he still needed a temporary place to stay, especially for those who intended to go back to sea shortly after they returned.  Many public houses in London, particularly the districts of Shadwell and Wapping, offered lodging to sailors.  Several of these places featured both a unique name and a female landlord, such as Dianah Dunkin’s, “The Angell,” and Eliah Ernew’s, “The French Tower,” in Wapping.[68]  When sailors made their residence here, they received not only a room to sleep in, but also food, and often laundry services.  Mariner John Hedley paid seven shillings a week for, “dyett Lodging and Washing,” while in London in 1699.[69]  The landladies and sailors had interesting relationships, since the former often tried to take as much money from the latter, be it for his room, laundry, food, alcohol, or sometimes for sex based on William Congreve’s 1695 comedy Love for Love.  In his play, Congreve has Ben the sailor say, “We [sailors] live at sea…Come home and lie with our Landladies once a Year, get rid of a little Mony; and then put off with the next fair wind.”[70]  Sometimes, a landlady could also be a sailor’s wife.  These landladies also made money from Navy sailors by becoming discount ticket purchasers, buying up the wage tickets issued to mariners instead of hard currency.  The sailor could not wait to cash these tickets for their full value; so many landladies took them as payment for their services, though at a steep discount against the original value.  The landladies gained a profit by either going and cashing in the tickets herself or selling them to another agent who also bought tickets, but at a small discount than she charged to the original sailor.[71]

While many public houses lodged men for days or weeks, a number of them also made room for sailors who only needed a room for a few hours.  Edward Ward noticed at one institute in Billingsgate that a sailor and a prostitute wanted to spend a few hours together before the boats left for Gravesend.  The landlady said the boats left a four in the morning, which the sailor responded, “that will be too long to sit up: Can’t my Wife and I have a Bed here?”  The landlady responded they could and that, “we have several Couples above in Bed that wait for this Tide as well as you Sir.”  Ward noted the couple were, “lighted [up the stairs], Post-haste, to the old Trade of Basket-making.”[72]  It mattered little whether the sailor needed a residence for several days, or just a bed for several hours, the landlady of a public house took a mariner’s money in either case.

Women who worked for victuallers, alehouses, taverns, and other similar institutions that emphasized the serving of drink, food, and entertainment to their clients also encountered sailors on a regular basis.  While men owned the strong majority of these institutions, a woman, usually the landlord’s wife, ran the everyday operations of these houses.  Day and night, the landlady, “welcomes customers, asks what they will drink, ensures they are served, permits them a kiss or other favour, and when they finally run out of money or credit, chase them out of doors.”[73]  If the landlord or landlady had daughters, they often helped run the house by doing chores and acting as servants, though some felt that their parents should hire maidservants to do such work.  These servants fetched customers their drinks, enticed or made customers feel comfortable, and cleaned the house’s various drinking implements.  Many maidservants caused problems by loitering outside the house with their friends and stealing drinks for them.  Attractive and welcoming servants could influence a house’s business greatly by drawing in more customers.[74]  This is probably why Edward Ward noted when he encountered an unflattering maidservant he encountered as a:

Female Wappineer, whose Crimson Countenance, and duble-Chin, contain’d within the borders of a White Callico Hood, made her fiery Face look in my fancy, like a round red hot Iron glowing in a Silver Chavendish; The rest of her Body being in proportion to her Head, bore so Corpulent a grace, that had a Bag of Cotten, or a Wooll-Pack been lac’d into a pair of Stays, adorn’d with Petecoats, and put upon Stilts it would have made a Figure of such Similitude to her person.[75]

Some places, often known as music houses, also fulfilled the role of entertainment by hosting musicians to amuse their customers with music for dancing or listening.  Ward notes on one occasion a house having a female fiddler, “who had charg’d her Tun-belly’d Carcase, like the rest, with more Guzzle, than her Legs were able to carry.”[76]  She sang, “Bawdy Songs with a Hickuping Voice, which she endeavour’d to improve with intollerable Scrapes upon her Crack’d Instrument.”[77]  Be it serving as a musician, landlady, or maidservant, women played an essential role in running the various alehouses, taverns, and houses in which sailors found their entertainment on shore.

* * *

The history of Anne Bonny and Mary Read is only one small part of the greater history of women in the maritime world of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but using their case as a starting point helps unfold the more obscure history of women in the maritime world.  Bonny and Read had short careers that featured little of the fiction attributed to them after 1720.  While the world of the ship was a masculine one, this did not stop some women from following husbands and loved ones out to sea, and did not stop Bonny and Read from following theirs.  Up until about 1720, there were significant ports that welcomed pirates where pirates could go to reunite with their wives and sweethearts.  By 1720, these circumstances changes, forcing women like Bonny, Read, and Martha Farley to follow their loved ones set out to sea.  Many other women who encountered pirates at sea feared that the pirates might assault them physically or sexually.  Bonny and Read, on the other hand, managed to integrate themselves into a pirate crew larger than six people that lasted longer than a few days or weeks, unlike the pirate crews associated with Martha Farley and Mary Critchett.  While these two women chose to enter a part of the maritime world that could, and did, end poorly for its participants, their other choices of employment were limited in the maritime world of that era.  The history of these two famous female pirates stands as an anomaly in the Golden Age of Piracy, yet their actions are relatable to the experiences of other maritime women.

Postscript: A special thanks to Dr. E. T. Fox, who helped in several ways with this article, especially with obtaining trial accounts for Martha Farley and Mary Critchett.


[1] The Trial of Edmund Williams, George Caves, George Cole alias Sanders, Edward Edwards, Jeremiah Smith and Mary Critchett for Piracy, at the Court of Admiralty held at Williamsburg, Virginia, 14 August 1729. HCA 1/99/8, TNA; Appleby, Women and English Piracy, 222-223.

[2] As mentioned previously, publications in the 1980s and 1990s regarding women pirates, for reasons unknown, presented a number of fictional and undocumented claims of women pirates as fact.  As far as the known historical record is concerned, for the period of interest in this article, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, and Mary Critchett are the only documentable women pirates.

[3] The Trial of John Vidal, Edward Coleman, Thomas Allen, and Martha Farley, at a Court held at Williamsburg, Virginia, 15 August, 1727. HCA 1/99/9 f.2-8v, TNA; Appleby, Women and English Piracy, 218-221.

[4] Lieutenant Governor Molesworth to William Blathwayt, Jamaica, August 8, 1682, CSPCS, 1685-1688, item 1,382; Information of Captain St. Loe, R.N., as to the state of Nevis, July 19, 1687, CSPCS, 1685-1688, item 1,356

[5] GHP, 69.

[6] E. T. Fox, “‘Piractical Schemes and Contracts’: Pirate Articles and Their Society, 1660-1730” (PhD diss., University of Exeter, 2013), 222.

[7] Ibid., 221-222; “London, February 5,” White-hall Evening-Post, February 3-5, 1719; GHP, 302-303.

[8] Mark G. Hanna, Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).  While his text covers other periods, Hanna’s best works comes with his coverage of the 1670s to the trial of Captain Quelch’s crew in 1704.  Hanna covers the rise of pirates using colonies beyond Jamaica as their home ports in the 1680s and 1690s in chapters 4 through 8 of his text.  Kevin McDonald, author of Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World, also approaches this issue in his text that concentrates more on the economic connection of the merchants to the pirates.

[9] Kevin P. McDonald, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonial America and the Indo-Atlantic World (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015), 56-58; E. T. Fox, Pirates in Their Own Words: Eye-Witness Accounts of the “Golden Age” of Piracy, 1690-1728 (Fox Historical, 2014), 361.

[10] John Atkins, A voyage to Guinea, Brasil, and the West Indies; in His Majesty’s Ships, the Swallow and Weymouth (London : Caesar Ward and Richard Chandler,1735), 228.

[11] “Accot. of Piratts and the State and Condition the Bohamias are now in Rendered by Thomas Walker, New Providence, March 12, 1714[-15],” CO 5/1264, No. 17i, TNA; Lt. Governor Pulleine to the Council of Trade and Plantations, Bermuda, April 22, 1714, CSPCS, July 1712 – July 1714, item 651.

[12] Fox “Piractical Schemes and Contracts,” 228.

[13] William Snelgrave, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and the Slave-Trade (London: James, John, and Paul Knapton, 1734), 255-256.

[14] GHP, 117; For another example of pirates going on shore to spend time with African women, see: “Boston,” The Boston Newsletter, August 22, 1720.

[15] McDonald, Pirates, Merchants, Settlers, and Slaves, 83, 92, 112; Narrative of Mr. Henry Watson, who was taken prisoner by the pirates, 15 August 1696, February 14, 1698, CSPCS, 1697-1698, item 224.

[16] Zacek, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670-1776, 176-179.

[17] Snelgrave, A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and the Slave Trade, 257.

[18] B. R. Burg, Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean (New York: New York University Press, 1995), 118.

[19] Deposition of Capt. Edward Holmes, Bermuda, April 20, 1709, CSPCS, 1708-1709, item 472.

[20] Michael J. Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade: Bermuda, Bermudians, and the Maritime Atlantic World, 1680-1783 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 331.

[21]. E. T. Fox, King of the Pirates: The Swashbuckling Life of Henry Every, (Stroud: History Press, 2008), p. 86.

[22] Khafi Khan, “Capture of a Royal Ship by the English. The English at Bombay,” in Henry Miers Elliot and John Dowso, The History of India As Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period, Volume VII, (London: Trubner, 1877), pp. 350-351.

[23] “London,” London Journal, January 13, 1721[1722], 5; Women and English Piracy, 183.

[24] GHP, 620.  This is an account from the previously mentioned appendix in Johnson’s work, which may include information from Woodes Rogers, though Johnson possibly altered it for his publication.

[25] “A Full and Exact Account, of the Tryal of All the Pyrates, Lately Taken by Captain Ogle, on Board the Swallow Man of War, on the Coast of Guinea,” in British Piracy in the Golden Age: History and Interpretation, 1660-1730, ed. Joel Baer, Volume 3 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2007), 112.

[26] Jarvis, In the Eye of All Trade, 331.

[27] Governor Parke’s Reply to the 22 Articles of Complaint, September 10, 1709, CSPCS, June 1708-1709, item 597i.

[28] Appleby, Women and English Piracy, 184.

[29] Fox, “Piractical Schemes and Contracts,” 313-315, 318, 320, 325.

[30] Ibid., 185.

[31] Appleby, Women and English Piracy, 191-192.

[32] Ibid., 194-195. Peter Earle, Sailors: English Merchant Seamen 1650-1775 (London: Methuen Publishing, 2007), 101-102.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Stark, Female Tars, 47-56, 58-59.

[35] Ibid., 83-85.

[36] John Curtis, The Maiden Sailor: Being A true Relation of a young Damsel, who was Press’d on Board the Edgar Man of War (London: J. Blare, 1693); Dror Wahrman, Making of the Modern Self : Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004), 21-22.

[37] Thomas Phillips, “A Journal of a Voyage from England to Africa, and so Forward to Barbadoes, in the Years 1693, and 1694,” in A Collection of Voyages and Travels (London: Mr. [John] Churchill, et al, 1732) 6:179.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Stark, Female Tars, 29; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (1980, New York: Vintage Books, 1991), 42.

[40] David I. Kertzer and Marzio Barbagli, Family Life in Early Modern Times 1500-1789 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 224-225; Ulrich, Good Wives, 6.

[41] Edward Ward, The Wooden World Dissected (London: H. Meere, 1707), 96.

[42] Kertzer and Barbagli, Family Life in Early Modern Times, 225; Ulrich, Good Wives, 6.

[43] Daniel Vickers, Young Men and the Sea (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005), 118-119; Marcus Rediker, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700-1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 299.

[44] Vickers, Young Men and the Sea, 106-107.

[45] Brian Lavery, Royal Tars: The Lower Deck of the Royal Navy, 875-1850 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2010), 120-121; J. D. Davies, Gentlemen and Tarpaulins: The Officers and Men of the Restoration Navy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), 83; Stark, Female Tars, 20-21.

[46] Ward, The Wooden World Dissected, 96.

[47] The Merry Wives of Wapping. Or, The Seaman’s Wives Clubb (London: F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clark, [c.1674-1679]).

[48] Ulrich, Good Wives, 42; Capp, When Gossips Meet, 36.

[49] Barlow, Edward. Barlow’s Journal of His Life at Sea in King’s Ships, East & West Indiamen & Other Merchantmen from 1659 to 1703. Edited by Basil Lubbock. Vol. 2. (London: Hurst & Blackett, LTD, 1934), 310.

[50] Stark, Female Tars, 23.

[51] Ulrich, Good Wives, 40-41.

[52] Ibid., 44.

[53] Michelle Marchetti Coughlin, One Colonial Woman’s World: The Life and Writings of Mehetabel Chandler Coit (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012), 94.

[54] Francis Manwaring Caulkins, History of New London, Connecticut (New London: Francis Caulkins, 1852), 326.

[55] Stark, Female Tars, 24; Peter Earle, “The Female Labour Market in London in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 42, 3 (Aug. 1989), 339.

[56] Beverly Lemire, Dress, Culture and Commerce: The English Clothing Trade before the Factory, 1660-1800 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997), 50-52.

[57] The Examinacon[sic] or Answer of Richard Martin, February 13, 1714. E 134/13Anne/Trin10, TNA.

[58] Lemire, Dress, Culture and Commerce, 51-52, 104-105; “Advertisements,” Evening Post, April 9-12, 1720.

[59] Ibid., 104, 114-115.

[60] John Cremer, Ramblin’ Jack: The Journal of Captain John Cremer, 1700-1774, ed. R. Reynell Bellamy (London: Jonathan Cape Ltd., 1936), 75-76.

[61] Appleby, Women and English Piracy, 193; Capp, When Gossips Meet, 39.

[62] Stark, Female Tars, 28-35.

[63] Capp, When Gossips Meet, 67.

[64] Edward Ward, The London Spy Compleat. In Eighteen Parts (London: J. How, [c.1701]), 1: Part XI, 10.

[65] Ibid., 1: Part XI, 12.  For the last category, Ward described the Strumpets as hawkers of oysters.  He also suggested, through their taking of mercury, that they were infected with venereal diseases.

[66] Stark, Female Tars, 5-6, 10-12.

[67]  Henry Teonge, The Diary of Henry Teonge, Chaplain on Board H.M.’s Ships Assistance, Bristol, and Royal Oak, 1675-1679, ed. G. E. Manwaring (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1927), 29.

[68] Charles Bainbridge, An exact list of the Mariners & Seafaring Men the Hamlet of Wapping White

Chappell in the County of Middlesex, [1691], Treasury Papers 1/12, fols. 102-104, TNA.

[69] Probate Inventory of John Hedley, of the Joseph and Jacob, June 19, 1699. PROB 5/204, TNA.

[70] William Congreve, Love for Love: A Comedy (London: Jacob Tonson, 1695), 54.  Edward Ward also features a vivid scene of a landlady interacting with several sailors. Ward, London Spy, 2: Part II, 4-6.

[71] Margaret Hunt, “Women and the fiscal-imperial state in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries,” in A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660-1840, Kathleen Wilson, ed. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 34-35.

[72] Ward, London Spy, 2: 1: Part II, 14.

[73] Peter Clark, The English Alehouse: A Social History, 1200-1830 (London: Longman, 1983), 205.

[74] Ibid., 206.

[75] Ward, London Spy, 2: Part II, 4-5

[76] Ibid., 1: Part XI, 11.

[77] Ibid.

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