“She Bared Her Breasts To Prove It”

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 15 2011 @ 2:28pm


Karen Abbott weaves a fascinating tale of female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read:

Accounts vary as to how Anne met Mary Read. According to Johnson, Rackam’s ship conquered Mary’s somewhere in the West Indies, and Mary was among those taken prisoner. After the engagement, Anne, dressed in female attire, tried to seduce the handsome new recruit. Mary, perhaps fearing repercussions from Rackam, informed Anne she was actually a woman—and bared her breasts to prove it.  Anne vowed to keep Mary’s secret and the women became friends, confidantes and, depending on the source, lovers.

The piece also uproots many myths about life at sea:

The notion of “walking the plank” is a myth, as are secret stashes of gold. “Nice idea, buried plunder,” says maritime historian David Cordingly. “Too bad it isn’t true.” Pirates ate more turtles than they drank rum, and many were staunch family men; Captain Kidd, for instance, remained devoted to his wife and children back in New York. Another historian, Barry R. Burg, contends that the majority of sexual dalliances occurred not with women but with male shipmates.

(Image: Anne Bonny (left) and Mary Read, as rendered in A General History of the Pyrates)