Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Admiral Beaumont is a long-time resident of the Steamlands in general, but the beautiful land of Rosehaven in particular.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: He hosts an annual Privateers’ Ball to assist Relay For Life fundraising, and is respected throughout the sailable seas of this grid.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: He has been presenting annually here for years, and we are glad to welcome him back with another fascinating sailing subject.
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Herr Admiral.
Wildstar Beaumont: thank you Herr Baron
Wildstar Beaumont: Greetings and thank you all for being here this evening
Wildstar Beaumont: It is our annual naval/pirate Salon, held close to the international “talk like a pirate day”, which fall tomorrow, the 19th of September
Wildstar Beaumont: So, hello and Yarr!
Wildstar Beaumont: This year we will deal with the subject of women at sea.
Wildstar Beaumont: It is a broader subject that can be expected, and so we will be able to touch only the tip of the iceberg, but I hope to raise enough interest to invite you to follow-up with your own research on the subject
Wildstar Beaumont: Even if sailing and seafaring has been traditionally seen as a prevalent male activities, to the point to associate the presence of women on a ship to bad luck, women have always had an active role in naval activities, since the dawn of history and throughout the world.
Wildstar Beaumont: Women have always had a role on sea, whether as companions of captains, admirals or pirates, or, in their own right, as queens, merchants, sailors, officers, captains or even pirates.
Wildstar Beaumont: As I said, So many are the stories that could be told that today we will be able to touch just a small number of these stories, related to some of the most famous names.
Wildstar Beaumont: We start our story mentioning those who are arguably the most famous, or infamous, pirate women in history: Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Renowned for their ruthlessness, these two female pirates challenged the sailors’ adage that a woman’s presence on shipboard invites bad luck.
Wildstar Beaumont: A surprising number of women ventured to sea, in many capacities: as servants, prostitutes, laundresses, cooks and—albeit less frequently—as sailors, naval officers, whaling merchants. Still, female pirates remained an anomaly and perceived liability.
Wildstar Beaumont: Story tells that the two women were said to fight harder and deadlier than their male pirate crewmates
Wildstar Beaumont: Unfortunately, much of their early existence is a mystery, with virtually no information about their lives before they entered piracy in August 1720.
Wildstar Beaumont: Mostly is known from Captain Charles Johnson’s book “A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates” a book which is however considered largely fiction, with very little fact.
Wildstar Beaumont: It must be also said that some scholars consider Johnson to be a pseudonym of English writer Daniel Defoe, of Robinson Crusoe’s fame
Wildstar Beaumont: (to detour from our main subject for a second, since we are in the period of the “house of dragons”, for those of you who have read the source material, George RR Martin’s Fire and Blood, we could consider Johnson’s work’s reputation similar to “the Testimony of Mushroom” in the context of the hostory of Westros )
Wildstar Beaumont: Johnson gives their early lives parallel origin stories: they were both illegitimate children raised as boys to avoid social scandal as bastard daughters.
Wildstar Beaumont: Her father betrothed Anne to a local man, but Anne resisted.
Wildstar Beaumont: She then eschewed 18th-century female societal roles by running away in 1718 with a sailor, James Bonny. After several years at sea, they landed at Nassau on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. There her husband became an informant for the governor of the Bahamas, privateer Woodes Rogers.
Wildstar Beaumont: Disenchanted by her marriage and separated. Anne subsequently spent much of her time in taverns drinking and seducing sailors and pirates until she met Captain John (Calico Jack) Rackham
Wildstar Beaumont: He offered to pay her husband to divorce her—a common practice at the time—but John Bonny refused
Wildstar Beaumont: In August 1720 Anne Bonny abandoned her husband and assisted Rackham in commandeering the sloop William from Nassau Harbour on New Providence. Along with a dozen others, the pair began pirating merchant vessels along the coast of Jamaica.
Wildstar Beaumont: John “Calico Jack” Rackam, was so-called due to his affinity for garish clothing. Letting Bonny to join his crew was highly unusual, as women were considered bad luck aboard ship.
Wildstar Beaumont: He may have been swayed by her fierce disposition
Wildstar Beaumont: Bonny did not conceal her gender from her shipmates, though when pillaging she disguised herself as a man and participated in armed conflict
Wildstar Beaumont: (we will see at the end how tougher she was)
Wildstar Beaumont: One legend holds that she launched her pirating career with an ingenious ploy, creating a “corpse” by mangling the limbs of a dressmaker’s mannequin and smearing it with fake blood. When the crew of a passing French merchant ship spotted Anne wielding an ax over her creation, they surrendered their cargo without a fight.
Wildstar Beaumont: Mary Read had a similar story in that she joined the British Army in Flanders disguised as a young man.
Wildstar Beaumont: She then seduced and married a fellow soldier, but he died soon after, so she resumed her male identity and re-joined the army in a different regiment. Grief, however, dulled her skills, so she was honorably discharged. It was time for a new beginning.
Wildstar Beaumont: She then joined a merchant ship, which was soon besieged by pirates, and ended up in Nassau after opting to join the pirates’ ranks herself. Here she is said to have met Anne and Jack, and the three of them embarked on their own voyage as part of a larger crew
Wildstar Beaumont: Accounts differ on when Mary Read joined Anne and Calico Jack’s crew. Some state that Read—who had served as a mercenary while disguised as a man—was among the original hijackers of the William, while others claim that she was aboard a Dutch merchant ship that Rackham’s crew captured.
Wildstar Beaumont: When the trio set sail from Providence in August 1720, Anne – thinking Mary was a man – apparently attempted to seduce her fellow crewmate. Despite the revelation that Mary was, in fact, female, they quickly become the fiercest pair on the ship, and may have even started a romantic relationship regardless.
Wildstar Beaumont: Rackham was so jealous of Mary’s closeness to Anne that he threatened to slit her throat, but when he realized that she was a woman too, he acquiesced to the pair’s relationship.
Wildstar Beaumont: Both Mary and Anne had reputations as the toughest of the tough in the pirate world- they could fight, swear, steal, and even kill with the best of them. They were known as some of the fiercest fighters on Calico Jack’s crew, certainly challenging the old pirate saying about having women aboard a ship invites bad luck.
Wildstar Beaumont: Mary was known to pick fights with crewmembers “when she had been insulted,” and Anne is rumored to have brutally stabbed a man in the heart for making comments about women on board ships bringing bad luck to sailors as a woman too
Wildstar Beaumont: (remember what I said about the credibility of the source) 🙂
Wildstar Beaumont: As some accounts relay, Read and Bonny became less cautious about exposing their biological sexes over time. As they garnered the respect of the crew, they were able to dress and live as women in their down-time without negative repercussions, only donning their breeches and caps for battle.
Wildstar Beaumont: The fact that Read and Bonny were able to reveal their sex at all is truly indicative of their esteemed reputations
Wildstar Beaumont: many pirate captains (Blackbeard, for one) would have had women executed for their mere presence on a ship deck
Wildstar Beaumont: The 19th of October 1720 they seized a canoe containing a woman named Dorothy Thomas. Anne and Mary were ruthless in the attack and insisted they kill Dorothy, but Rackham overruled them. The two women insisted that she could speak out against them if they were caught, but Rackham ignored their advice.
Wildstar Beaumont: Their luck was waning, however. The governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, had heard of their exploits and charged a famed pirate hunter, Jonathan Barnet.
Wildstar Beaumont: Barnet, a privateer of the War of the Spanish Succession, knew many pirates’ haunts in the area, and managed to get information from Dorothy Thomas regarding their whereabouts.
Wildstar Beaumont: Barnet approached the Revenge with a British flag, calling for Rackham to surrender. The pirate captain refused and shouted he would neither give nor take any quarter, but after Barnet fired his ship’s cannons, Rackham ordered everyone to hide down in the hold
Wildstar Beaumont: “If there’s a man among ye, ye’ll come up and fight like the man ye are to be!” Mary allegedly shouted at her crewmates, still standing on deck. She shot her pistol into the hold, killing one of her fellow pirates in the process, but the men still refused to fight, leaving Anne and Mary to defend the ship alone. Captain Barnet and his men easily overpowered the duo, and soon, all the pirates were arrested and sent to Port Royal
Wildstar Beaumont: Captain Jack Rackham was one of the first to be sentenced to death. On the morning of his execution, 18 November 1720, he asked to see Anne for some final words of comfort. Still furious at how his cowardice likely led to their imprisonment, she spoke with callousness: “If you had fought like a man, you need not have been hang’d like a dog.”
Wildstar Beaumont: Dorothy Thomas was a key witnesses, just as Anne and Mary predicted, and her testimony damned the rest of the pirates almost immediately
Wildstar Beaumont: after receiving their sentence of death, they revealed a shocking secret: both were pregnant. As custom dictated, they were given a stay of execution until after the birth of their children
Wildstar Beaumont: Tragically, Mary died in prison in April 1721 of ‘gaol fever’, today known as typhus, and possibly complications during childbirth.
Wildstar Beaumont: Anne’s end is more mysterious. It has long been thought that she managed to leave prison and go back home to the Carolinas, where she lived until the age of 82
Wildstar Beaumont: On the other hand, more recent research has located records in St Catherine’s Parish, Jamaica, listing the death of a woman named Anne Bonny in 1731, suggesting that she may have spent the rest of her life on the island
Wildstar Beaumont: Anne Bonny was likely inspired by a 16th-century Irishwoman named Grace O’Malley, whose fierce visage (she claimed her face was scarred after an attack by an eagle) became infamous along the coast of the Emerald Isle. In popular culture she is often referred to as “The Pirate Queen”.
Wildstar Beaumont: Grace’s life was initially a quiet one. Even if the sea always fascinated her, she married early and had three children. The young bride was able to gain respect and admiration from the clan’s people playing an active role in their trades and even taking away the command of the clan’s fleet from his husband, highly unusual for the period.
Wildstar Beaumont: When her husband died in battle, she went back to her family castle taking with her her children and 200 member of her husband’s clan.
Wildstar Beaumont: From this moment she abandoned any form of quiet existence and got more and more involved in maritime trades and in the tumultuous relationships with the English Crown
Wildstar Beaumont: After becoming very rich thanks to more or less legal trades, Grace felt strong enough to oppose more and more the English, harassing their ships In those years, under Elizabeth I, the English influence in Irish politics was becoming more heavy handed, taking away power from the local clans, the O’Malley first among them
Wildstar Beaumont: At the age of 56, O’Malley was captured and imprisoned by Sir Richard Bingham, the English governor who was appointed to rule over Irish territories. While she narrowly escaped a death sentence, her confinement meant she lost influence and wealth as English power in Ireland increased, until she was on the brink of poverty
Wildstar Beaumont: After hearing about Bingham’s arrest of her brother and O’Malley petitioned the Crown for the release of her son and set sail for England.
Wildstar Beaumont: The historic meeting with Queen Elizabeth I and the ‘pirate queen’ took place in September 1593 at Greenwich Castle. Their conversation was carried out in Latin, as Grace spoke no English and Elizabeth spoke no Gaelic
Wildstar Beaumont: The encounter was initially considered a success for Grace as Elizabeth granted each of her requests on the condition she ceased all rebellion against the crown.
Wildstar Beaumont: Eventually the meeting proved to have been useless, as several of Grace’s demands remained unresolved. Grace’s clan supported the Irish insurgents during later clashes with the English.
Wildstar Beaumont: As a pirate, O’Malley was largely written out of Irish history, so limited information exists of her life. Contemporary Irish historians were usually religious monks, and being a woman, Grace was largely ignored in their writings.
Wildstar Beaumont: This makes it difficult to pinpoint the precise year and location of her death.
However, modern historians think Grace died at Rockfleet Castle in 1603, the same year as Elizabeth I. She was buried in the abbey on Clare Island, the same abbey she learned to read and write as a child.
Wildstar Beaumont: We have time to mention just a few other examples of women who made themselves known at sea, or on waters.
Wildstar Beaumont: Actually, the very first tale of a woman fighting on ships probably dates to the 6th century BC and is told by the historian Herodotus. It is not about seafaring but rather in the region of the river Volga and Queen Tomrys.
Wildstar Beaumont: Tomyris was the widowed wife of the king of the Massagetae, a people in central Asia, whom she succeeded as the queen of the tribe after he died.
Wildstar Beaumont: The Persian Emperor Cyrus II asked for the hand of Tomyris with the intent of acquiring her kingdom through the marriage, she understood Cyrus’s aims and rejected his proposal. Cyrus responded to Tomyris’s rejection by deciding to invade the Massagetae
Wildstar Beaumont: Most of the war took place around the river area, with bridges and boats playing a major role. Eventually Tomyris defated the Persian army and Cyrus himself was killed in the decisive battle.
Wildstar Beaumont: Tomyris’ victory over Cyrus became a legend and she became a symbol for the peoples of Central Asia
Wildstar Beaumont: In Classic Greek and Roman history, we remember Queen Artemisia of Halikarnassus who led her ships with Xerses’ Persian fleet during the second Persian invasion of Greece.
Wildstar Beaumont: (you may remember the character from the second 300 movie, played by Eva Green)
Wildstar Beaumont: It looks like she had more clear ideas about how to conduct the war than the Persian emperor
Wildstar Beaumont: According to Herodotus (himself from Halikarnassus – so he might have been a bit biased) Xerses did not follow Artemisia’s advice on how to engage the Athenian Fleet, leading to the Persian defeat at the battle of Salamis
Wildstar Beaumont: In the third century BC Queen Teuta of Illirya was known to ride with her mariners, often taking command, in their raids in the Mediterranean
Wildstar Beaumont: Cleopatra led the Egyptian squadron at the decisive battle of Actium, and the reason behind her sudden withdrawal even before the fighting started, leading to Marc Anthony defeat, and Octavianus becoming the first emperor of Rome, are still discussed today
Wildstar Beaumont: We could mention more but it would require more time that we have: Viking female pirates, pirate queens from the far East, and so on. Enough material for a part 2.
Wildstar Beaumont: Thank you for being here today!
Ephemeria: pleae do a part two!
Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Ha! Now we know what next September will be.
Wildstar Beaumont: despite the fact that Anne Bonny and Mary Read used to dress as males in battle, it is said that they did not refrain to show their breasts while fighting so distracting the opponent and gain an advantage
Wildstar Beaumont: hit hard, hit first , no mercy
Wildstar Beaumont: very Cobra Kai