[Piracy in the Caribbean] also effectively introduced ideas of sexual equality three hundred years ahead of its time by embracing a group historically rejected by both the general public and academic scholars alike: women. Female pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read thrived alongside their male counterparts, learning to benefit from both sexes by fighting like men in war and escaping execution through pregnancy. Despite the sharp social stratification found on land, life at sea afforded strong men and women the opportunity to escape the lives prescribed to them.
Grace O’Malley ruled most of the west coast of Ireland between 1546-1603, using her ships to prey on merchants in her territorial waters and demand taxes from them. She infuriated the British government by constantly attacking their ships as they desperately tried to establish mastery over the Irish shipping and trade routes. In an historic meeting, Grace traveled to England and met with Queen Elizabeth I. Despite language barriers between the two powerful women, reports of the meeting suggested that the women truly liked each other and shared a mutual respect for a fellow female in a “man’s” job.
Ching Shih was the most popular female freebooter of China, who was also the captain of a crew. She was better known as Zheng Yi Sao, which means “wife of Zheng Yi”. She was actually a prostitute, who married to a notorious pirate Zheng Yi on the condition that he would share his power with her. After the death of her husband, she took command of the crew.
Throughout their lives, these female pirates maintained a pattern of "switching" genders when it most suited them. Both Read and Bonny adapted to their environments, appearing as boys to escape poverty, as women to marry, as men to become pirates, then finally as mothers to save themselves from death.
Anne Bonny and Mary Read did not cross-dress all of the time aboard the pirate ship. As John Besnick and Peter Cornelius testified in court, "when [the pirates] saw any vessel, gave Chase or Attack'd, [Bonny and Read] wore Men's Cloathes, and, at other Times, they wore Women's Cloaths." In other words, they dressed as men only during times of chase or engagement, when a show of "manpower" and strength might help to intimidate their prey and force a quick surrender.
The most known female pirates we know of is in the 18th century like Mary Read who was a Carribbean pirate from 1718-1720. At first, she went joined the British Army as a man. Then she got married and settled down as a woman. But once her husband died, she was ship bound for West Indies in male clothes. Her boat got captured by "Calico" Jack Rackham and decided to join his crew. In 1721, she unfortunately died in prison.
Even more closely connected, though still primarily providing domestic and support services, have been the women of those sea-based peoples such as the Phoenicians of the ancient Mediterranean, the Vikings of medieval Scandinavia, the Japanese Kaizoku in the Seto Inland Sea of sixteenth-century Japan, and the early modern Barbary States (Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli) of North Africa, peoples who subsisted wholly or in part on the control and plundering of shipping and the raiding of other coastal communities.
Recent research has disproved the long held myth that only men served at sea. Women served on ships in numerous capacities: as cooks, servants, seamstresses, nurses, wives and mistresses of captains, as, as with Bonny and Read, pirates... Contrary to the belief that women were "bad luck" on a ship, Robin Miskolcze argues that a woman's presence transformed a vessel into a "symbolic ship of state". In other words, women represented the codes of honor that pirates created for themselves and vigilantly followed.
While dashing male pirates have dominated fiction and movie screens for ages, female pirates are often left behind or ignored. In the Age of Sail, from the 15th-19th century, women around the world had few rights or opportunities to escape a life of marriage, children and housework. While this contented many women of the age, some had the same irresistible urge for adventure, for crime and for freedom from land laws. Female pirates ruled waters throughout the world, but today are often forgotten next to their more plentiful male crewmates.
Ever since 600 B.C., there has been rumors of female pirates. The first one is Ch'iao K'uo Fuu Jeen from China. Nobody is sure if this is true. But we know for sure that Queen Teuta of Illyria was also a female pirate in 232 B.C to 228 B.C. in Illyria named Queen Teuta of Illyria. So throughout history, there has been more female pirates than the two we always hear about; Mary Read and Anne Bonny.