|Died||28 April 1721 (aged 35–36)|
|Allegiance||English-allied infantry and cavalry in Holland|
|Years active||c. 1708–1721|
|Base of operations||Caribbean|
Mary Read (1685 – 28 April 1721), also known as Mark Read, was an English pirate. She and Anne Bonny are two of the most famed female pirates of all time, and among the few women known to have been convicted of piracy during the early 18th century, at the height of the "Golden Age of Piracy".
Read was born in England in 1685. She began dressing as a boy at a young age, at first at her mother's urging in order to receive inheritance money and then as a teenager in order to join the British military. She then married and upon her husband's death moved to the West Indies around 1715. In 1720 she met Jack Rackham and joined his crew, dressing as a man alongside Anne Bonny. Her time as a pirate was successful but short lived, as she, Bonny and Rackham were arrested in November 1720. Although Rackham was swiftly executed, both Read and Bonny claimed to be pregnant and received delayed sentences. Read died of a fever in April 1721, likely due to complications from the pregnancy.
Mary Read was born in the Kingdom of England in 1685. Her mother had married a sailor and had a son. After her husband disappeared at sea, Mary's mother became pregnant after an extramarital love affair. Read's mother attempted to hide the pregnancy by going to live with friends in the country. Shortly thereafter, her son died, and she gave birth to Mary. In financial distress, her mother decided to disguise Mary as her dead son, in order to receive monetary support from her late husband's mother. The grandmother was apparently fooled, and mother and daughter lived on the inheritance into Mary's teen years. Dressed as a boy, Read found work as a foot-boy, and, then, employment on a ship.
She later joined the British military, which was allied with Dutch forces against the French (this could have been during the Nine Years War or during the War of the Spanish Succession). Read, in male disguise, proved herself through battle, but fell in love with a Flemish soldier. When they married, she used their military commission and gifts from intrigued brethren in arms to acquire an inn named "De drie hoefijzers" ("The Three Horseshoes") near Breda Castle in The Netherlands.
Upon her husband's early death, Read resumed male dress and military service in the Netherlands. With peace, there was no room for advancement, so she quit and boarded a ship bound for the West Indies.
Becoming a pirate
Read's ship was taken by pirates, whom she willingly joined. She accepted the King's pardon c. 1718–1719, then took a commission to privateer, but joined the crew in mutiny. In 1720 she joined pirate John "Calico Jack" Rackham and his companion, Anne Bonny, who both believed her to be a man. On 22 August 1720, the three stole an armed sloop named William from port in Nassau. Scholars are uncertain how female pirates like Read and Bonny concealed their sex in a male-dominated environment. Some scholars, however, have theorized that the wearing of breeches by female pirates may have been either a method of hiding their identity or simply as practical clothing that solidified their working place on board the ship among the other seamen.
When Bonny told Read that she was a woman because she was attracted to her, Read revealed that she too was a woman. To abate the jealousy of her lover, Rackham, who suspected romantic involvement between the two, Bonny told him that Read was a woman. Speculation over the relationship between Bonny and Read led to images depicting the two in battle together.
A victim of the pirates, Dorothy Thomas, left a description of Read and Bonny: They "wore men's jackets, and long trousers, and handkerchiefs tied about their heads: and ... each of them had a machete and pistol in their hands and they cursed and swore at the men to murder her [Dorothy Thomas]." Thomas also recorded that she knew that they were women, "from the largeness of their breasts."
Capture and imprisonment
On 15 November 1720, pirate hunter Captain Jonathan Barnet took Rackham's crew by surprise, while they hosted a rum party with another crew of Englishmen at Negril Point off the west coast of the Colony of Jamaica. After a volley of fire disabled the pirate vessel, Rackham's crew and their "guests" fled to the hold, leaving only the women and one other to fight Barnet's boarding party (it is also possible that Rackham and his crew were too drunk to fight). Allegedly, Read angrily shot into the hold, killing one, and wounding others, when the men would not come up and fight with them. Barnet's crew eventually overcame the women. Rackham surrendered, requesting "quarter".
Rackham and his crew were arrested and brought to trial in what is now Spanish Town, Jamaica, where they were sentenced to hang for acts of piracy, as were Read and Bonny. However, the women claimed they were both "quick with child" (known as "pleading the belly"), and received temporary stays of execution.
Read died of a violent fever while in prison. Her 28 April 1721 burial is in the records of St. Catherine's church in Jamaica. There is no record of the burial of her baby, suggesting that she may have died while pregnant.
In popular culture
- A fictionalized version of Mary Read appears in the 2013 video game Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag and is voiced by Olivia Morgan. She poses as James Kidd, the illegitimate son of Captain William Kidd, and is a member of the Assassin Order.
- The 2006 TV film True Caribbean Pirates featured Mary Read portrayed by Kimberly Adair.
- The 1961 Italian film Le avventure di Mary Read told the story of Mary Read, who was portrayed by Lisa Gastoni.
- Mary Read is also portrayed in the Detective Conan animated film Jolly Roger in the Deep Azure along with Anne Bonny.
- Mary Read is a playable character in Fate/Grand Order as a Rider-class and an Archer-class Servant along with Anne Bonny; they are voiced by Ayako Kawasumi (Bonny) and Ai Nonaka (Read).
- Read (Cara Roberts) introduces herself to Anne Bonny under the name of Mark Read in the final episode of Black Sails.
- Mary Read is featured in the song "The Ballad of Mary Read and Anne Bonny" by the Baja Brigade.
- Mary Read is featured in the song "Under the Flag of Mary Read" by Italian metal band Secret Sphere.
- Mary Read and Anne Bonny are featured in the song "Five Guns West" by Adam and the Ants.
- Mary Read and Anne Bonny are featured in the novel The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara.
- Mary Read appears with Anne Bonny as the primary protagonist in the Well-Behaved Women series of books.
- Read appears with Bonny and Rackham in the Audible serial podcast Hell Cats, by Carina Rodney.
- A wood sculpture, believed to be from the 18th century, of Mary Read is fixed to the front elevation of the 18th-century The Earle Arms public house in Heydon, Norfolk.
- In 2020 a statue of Read and Bonny was unveiled at Execution Dock in Wapping, London. It is planned to eventually bring the statue to Burgh Island in south Devon.
- Cordingly, David (2007). Seafaring women : adventures of pirate queens, female stowaways, and sailors' wives (2007 Random House Trade paperback ed.). New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks. ISBN 9780375758720. OCLC 140617965.
- Cordingly, David (1996). Under the Black Flag: The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates. New York: Random House. p. 61.
- Druett, Joan (2005) . She captains : heroines and hellions of the sea. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. ISBN 0760766916. OCLC 70236194.
- Rogers, Woodes (10 October 1720). "A proclamation". The Boston Gazette.
- Woodard, Colin. "Mary Read Biography". Archived from the original on 4 January 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2014.
- Cordingly, David (2006). Under the Black Flag. New York: Random House. pp. 57–58. ISBN 978-0812977226.
- O'Driscoll, Sally (2012). "The Pirate's Breasts: Criminal Women and the Meanings of the Body". The Eighteenth Century. 53 (3): 357–379. doi:10.1353/ecy.2012.0024. JSTOR 23365017. S2CID 163111552 – via JSTOR.
- Johnson, Charles (1724). A General History of the Pyrates. London: T. Warner. p. 162.
[…] this Intimacy so disturb’d Captain Rackam, who was the Lover and Gallant of Anne Bonny, that he grew furiously jealous, so that he told Anne Bonny, he would cut her new Lover’s Throat, therefore, to quiet him, she let him into the Secret also.
- Burl, Aubrey (2006). Black Barty: Bartholomew Roberts and his Pirate Crew 1718–1723. Stroud: Sutton Publishing. pp. 147–148. ISBN 978-1846324338. OCLC 852757012.
- Pallardy, Richard. "Anne Bonny". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 15 June 2015.
- Baldwin, Robert (1721). The Trials of Captain John Rackam and other Pirates. Jamaica.
- Johnson, Charles (1724). A General History of Pyrates (1st ed.). London: T. Warner.
- Kain, Erik (10 December 2013). "The Surprisingly Beautiful Ending Of 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag'". Forbes. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Ehrhardt, Michelle (28 September 2015). "Assassin's Creed: Syndicate to Feature First Trans Character". Out. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Dnicola, Nick (30 July 2014). "The Assassins' Propaganda". PopMatters. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Silver, Dan (29 October 2013). "Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag review: Will you have a whale of a time on high seas adventure?". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Hamilton, Kirk (29 October 2013). "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag: The Kotaku Review". Kotaku. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- McIntee, David (20 January 2016). Fortune and Glory: A Treasure Hunter's Handbook. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 9781472807861.
- Mize, Clint (28 October 2013). "We played 'Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag' and here's what we learned". MTV News. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Wong, Steven (10 November 2014). "Assassin's Creed: Can the Assassins Win the War?". Shacknews. Retrieved 24 December 2017.
- Schei, Kelley (2 January 2007). Zarker, Karen (ed.). "True Caribbean Pirates". PopMatters. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- Dziki, Oskar (8 June 2016). "Queen of the Seas (1961). Włoska heroina na morzu". Kinomisja (in Polish). Retrieved 8 February 2018.
- Patten, Dominic (2 April 2017). Fleming, Mike (ed.). "'Black Sails' Creators On Tonight's Series Finale & More Possible Pirate Adventures". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media, LLC. Retrieved 26 March 2018.
- "The Ballad of Mary Read and Anne Bonny, by The Baja Brigade". The Baja Brigade. Retrieved 6 June 2018.
- "Well-Behaved Women Book Series".
- Hell Cats.
- "The Earle Arms, Heydon, Norfolk | On the outside of the pub … | Flickr". 15 February 2019.
- "Female pirate lovers whose story was ignored by male historians immortalised with statue". The Independent. 18 November 2020.