Friday, March 24, 2017

Pirate Women

Pirate Women by Laura Sook Duncombe
Chicago Review Press: 4/1/17
eBook review copy; 264 pages
ISBN-13: 9781613736012

Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas by Laura Sook Duncombe is the first-ever collection of stories about women pirates, real and legendary.

"[T]o be a pirate is to assert that whatever you fancy belongs to you." This was written to describe sixteenth‑century pirate Grace O’Malley.
While it is difficult to define exactly what would constitute a pirate, Duncombe takes a broadly defined look at the definition beyond the golden age of piracy. All pirates had the desire for freedom to live as they chose as a common denominator, but female pirates are often absent in historical accounts. "Pirates live outside the laws of man, but women pirates live outside the laws of nature. Women pirates are left out because they don’t fit nicely into the categories of 'normal' women or traditional women's virtues." Since traditional historians are men, accurate historical information about women pirates is lacking. "As long as men control the narrative, women pirates will be mostly left out. Even if male historians today were inclined to write about pirate women, they would have a difficult time doing so because of the dearth of primary sources about them. Since women have been considered unworthy subjects of historical documentation in the past, it is now difficult to study them - a vicious cycle that persists in keeping women 'off the record.'"

The women pirates Duncombe covers include, in part: Queen Artemisia I of Halicarnassus; Queen Teuta of Illyria, or "the Terror of the Adriatic"; Christina Anna Skytte; Elise Eskilsdotter; Ingela Gathenhielm; Johanna Hård; longship captains Wisna, Webiorg, and Hetha; Princess Alfhild, also called Awilda;  Jeanne de Montfort, aka Joanna of Flanders; Jeanne de Clisson, aka the Lioness of Brittany; Sayyida al‑Hurra; Lady Elizabeth and Lady Mary Killigrew; Gráinne (Grace) Ní Mháille, the pirate queen of Ireland; Anne de Graaf; Jacquotte Delahaye; Anne Dieu‑le‑veut; Anne Bonny; Mary Read; Maria Cobham; Martha (Mary) Farley (or Harvey); Maria Crichett (or Mary Crickett/Crichett); Flora Burn; Rachel Wall; Charlotte Badger; Catherine Hagerty; Margaret Croke; Cheng I Sao (with four hundred ships and somewhere between forty thousand and sixty thousand pirates under her command); Sadie Farrell, aka Sadie the Goat; Gallus Mag: Lai Choi San; Hon‑ cho (or Honcho Lo); and Cheng Chui Ping, aka Sister. There is also a discussion of women pirates in the movies.

This is a well-researched, thoughtful, scholarly account of the women in history, real or fictional, that have made a mark as a pirate.  Pirate Women includes a list of general resources, specific sources used for each chapter, and an index for those who would like more information on the historical records.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of the Chicago Review Press.


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