Mary Read

Mary Read’s date of birth is unknown, but we do know that she was born in England, and was an illegitimate child. Shortly after her birth, her mother disguised her as a male, after her legitimate older brother (his name is unknown) died. This was done in order to continue to gain financial support from her grandmother. Her grandmother was fooled by this disguise, and Mary and her mother lived on the inheritance for many years. Mary continued masquerading as ‘Mark Read’, and when she was in her teenage years, she found work as a footboy, and later found employment on a ship. After she realized how hard ship life was, she jumped ship and joined the British Military. Mary was a great fighter, but soon fell in love with a Flemish solider. She then revealed herself to him as a woman. When they married, Mary wore women’s clothing for the first time in her life. When her husband died, she once again disguised herself as a man, and continued with the military in Holland. When peace resumed between countries, Mary quit the military and boarded a ship headed for the West Indies.


While sailing on this ship, it was captured by pirates, and they forced Mary (a.k.a. Mark) to join them. She took the King’s pardon, and became a privateer, until that ended in 1719, when she joined the rest of the crew in mutiny. Then, in 1720, she joined the pirate John “Calico Jack” Rackham, and the famous female pirate Anne Bonny. Mary remained disguised as a man. Nobody knew “Mark” was really a woman, until Anne Bonny began to take a liking to her, thinking he was a handsome young man. Mary was then forced to reveal herself to Anne. When Anne’s lover, Calico Jack, became jealous of the closeness “Mark” and Anne were gaining, he threatened to cut Mary’s throat. To save Mary’s life, she also revealed herself to Calico Jack. He then let both women join his crew (as it was a sign of bad luck to allow women onboard a ship). They wore men’s clothing while attacking people on Jamaica, and wore women’s clothes at all other times.


Mary fell in love with one of the men that who had been forced into service aboard Calico Jack’s ship. He was a sea-artist (carpenter or navigator). He was also due to fight an experienced pirate he had “rubbed the wrong way”. Mary knew that her beloved had no chance of winning this fight, so Mary (being a better swordsman) picked a fight with the pirate that had originally challenged her beloved, and killed him.


On October, 1720, a ship (captained by Jonathan Barnet) attacked Calico Jack’s ship. Most of the crew did not fight, because they were drunk. However, Mary, Anne Bonny, and an unknown crew member fought very well. Mary killed one, and injured many. But they were all captured in the end.


Calico Jack and his crew were sentenced to be hung, as were Mary and Anne. But, Mary and Anne admitted that they were both pregnant, and according to English laws, the women were to give birth before they were hung. Anne disappeared from history, but Mary died in prison in April of 1721. Some people say she died while giving birth. Others say she died of fever. Her baby also died, but there is no record of the baby’s burial.

Mary Read