Because you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried…
Mary Read, who would also join Jack Rackham’s gang, was born in Plymouth, England, probably around 1690. When Mary was a young child, her stepfather, a sea-faring man, left her and her pregnant mother. Her sibling died as an infant and Mary and her mother waited for many years for the return of her stepfather, but he never came. In desperation, Mary’s mother took her to London to plead with her in-laws for help. Knowing her mother-in-law’s dislike for girls, Mary’s mother dressed her as a boy and introduced her as her son. Mary posed as a boy for many years in order to receive aid from the old woman, continuing to do so even after her grandmother-in-law had died.
Having lived most of her growing life disguised as a boy, Mary became quite adventurous herself, eventually working aboard a man-of-war. She remained in this job for a short time until moving on and taking one masculine job after another, remaining secretly female. After meeting a man and falling in love, she began to dress in feminine costume for the first time in many years. She married and settled down for a short while, keeping an inn with her husband. Her husband sadly died young, causing their small fortune to soon run out. Realizing that life at that time was much simpler for a man, she reverted back to her old ways and began dressing as a man once again.
Mary found work on a Dutch ship, until that ended with her joining the crew in mutiny under command of Jack Rackham. Read remained dressed as a man at first and was not exposed until Anne Bonny began to take a liking to Read, thinking she was a handsome young fellow. Read revealed to Bonny that she, in fact, was also a woman. Rackham, who was Bonny’s lover, became jealous of the intimacy between them and threatened to cut the throat of Bonny’s new paramour, a fate escaped when Mary revealed the truth.
In October 1720, pirate hunter Captain Jonathan Barnet took Rackham’s crew by surprise while they were hosting a rum party with another crew of Englishmen off the west coast of Jamaica. After a volley of fire left the pirate vessel disabled, Rackham’s crew and their “guests” fled to the hold, leaving only the women and one other to fight Barnet’s boarding party. Allegedly, Read angrily shot into the hold, killing one, wounding others when the men would not come up and fight with them.
Mary Read never got to taste freedom again: she developed a fever and died in prison not long after her trial, probably sometime in early 1721.
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