Rachel Wall

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Rachel Wall
Bornc. 1760
Died8 October 1789 (age 29)
Piratical career
AllegianceUnited States
Years active1781–1782
Base of operationsNew Hampshire

Rachel Wall (c. 1760 – October 8, 1789) was an American female pirate, and the last woman to be hanged in Massachusetts. She may also have been the first American-born woman to become a pirate.[1]


Early life[edit]

Wall was born Rachel Schmidt in Carlisle, in the Province of Pennsylvania, to a family of devout Presbyterians.[1] She lived on a farm outside Carlisle as a child,[2] but was not happy there. Having become a young woman she spent time at the waterfront. She was attacked by a group of girls on the docks,[2] and a man named George Wall came and rescued her. The two married despite her mother's concerns[2].

Career as a pirate[edit]

When George went to the sea on a fishing schooner after the newlyweds moved to Boston, Rachel took up a job as a servant. When George came back, he brought with him five sailors and their lovers,[2] and persuaded Rachel to join them. In one week, the party had spent all their money and the schooner set sail again, upon which George suggested they all become pirates.[2] He borrowed another schooner from a friend,[2] and the party set sail.

Rachel and her crew worked in the Isle of Shoals, just off the New Hampshire coast.[2] After storms Rachel would stand on the deck and scream for help. When passers-by came to give aid, they were killed and all their goods stolen. The crew was successful in capturing 12 boats, stealing $6,000 cash, an indeterminate amount of valuables, and killing 24 sailors, all between 1781 and 1782.[1]

Arrest and execution[edit]

Eventually, after her husband and the crew washed out to sea by accident,[1][2] Rachel returned to Boston and resumed her role as a servant. However, she still enjoyed going to the docks and sneaking into harboured boats, stealing things from inside. Her final robbery occurred when she saw a young woman named Margaret Bender, wearing a bonnet which Rachel coveted. She attempted to steal the bonnet and rip Margaret's tongue out, but was caught and arrested. She was tried for robbery on September 10, 1789 but requested that she be tried as a pirate, while maintaining that she had never killed anyone.[2] However, she was found guilty of robbery and sentenced to be hanged on October 8, 1789.[3] She is said to have quoted "...into the hands of the Almighty God I commit my soul, relying on his mercy...and die an unworthy member of the Presbyterian Church, in the 29th year of my age", as her final words.[4] Her death marked the last occasion a woman was hanged in Massachusetts.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Women and the Jolly Roger". Cindy Vallar. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Biography of Rachel Wall - Seva.net". www.seva.net. Archived from the original on February 12, 2009. Retrieved 2008-05-22.
  3. ^ "Historical Female Pirates". Katy Berry. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  4. ^ Piracy, Mutiny, and Murder, pages 68-76. by Edward Rowe Snow. Published by Dodd Mead, in 1959.

Further reading[edit]

  • Life, last words and dying confession, of Rachel Wall: who, with William Smith and William Dunogan, were executed at Boston, on Thursday, October 8, 1789, for high-way robbery (Boston printed broadside)
  • Boston's Histories: Essays in Honor of Thomas H. O'Connor by Thomas H. O'Connor, James M. O'Toole, and David Quigley. ISBN 1-55553-582-8
  • The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting by Thomas C. Leonard. ISBN 0-19-503719-7

External links[edit]