Mary Jane Read (circa 1690–1721) is one of the most famous female pirates in history, along with Anne Bonny, with whom she sailed and fought while posing as a man.
Disguised as a man
Daughter of a sea captain, Mary Read was born around 1690 in England. When her brother died, her widowed mother began to dress her as a boy to continue collecting financial support from Mary's grandmother for the eldest. It is under this disguise that she enlists on a ship before enlisting in the army.
With her husband, whom she met in the army, Mary opened an inn which closed four years later, when she became a widow. She then resumes her men's clothes and enlists on a merchant ship under the name of her deceased brother:Willy Read. But her ship is attacked by a band of pirates, whom Mary joins and follows to the Bahamas.
Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham
During this trip, Mary Read meets Anne Bonny, a pirate woman who like her pretends to be a man, and her companion Jack Rackham. Without discovering his disguise, Rackham enlists him.
Then begins for Mary, who fights alongside the other pirates, in particular Anne Bonny and Jack Rackham, a period of piracy; they attack and loot ships that pass within range. It is said that when Mary Read beat a man in combat, she would reveal her sex to them before finishing them off to show them that a woman could fight on equal terms against a man.
During a fight with the Royal Queen, Anne Bonny manages to seduce the captain of the ship, to convince him to bring her on board and, once there, to drug him to have his elbows free. She then wets the fuses of the cannons before returning to her comrades, leaving the Royal Queen without the possibility of retaliating during the fight. The only victim of the fight will be the captain of the ship, killed by Mary.
In October 1720, Captain Barnet, sent by the Governor of Jamaica, captured Rackham and his crew, including Mary Read and Anne Bonny. Disgusted to see the little resistance offered by the pirates, they revolt and kill two of them, fighting to the end the troops of Barnet who ends up making them surrender their arms.
Jack Rackham and his crew are taken to Jamaica, found guilty of piracy and hanged. Anne and Mary, however, manage to escape the hanging by revealing that they are pregnant. Mary Read died in prison a few weeks later, of a miscarriage or yellow fever.