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An Overview of Female Pirates

When you think of a pirate, what do you imagine? Peg leg, parrot on shoulder, beard”¦breasts? With legendary characters dating back to 600 BC to Norwegian Vikings to fierce ladies of the South China Seas, women have tried their hands in the profession of pirating. In this article, you are introduced to some of the females who weren’t afraid to brave the seas and even strike fear into the hearts of those they encountered.

The Vikings also had their fair share of female pirates, including the sister duo of Princesses Sela and Rusla , Norwegian Vikings who earned themselves a reputation sometime around 420 AD. Other female pirate notables in history include the following lady Vikings:  Wigbiorg (800 AD), Wisna (800 AD), Hetha (800 AD), Alfhild (around 850 AD), and Ladgerda (870 AD).

Between 1520 and 1810, the sea was filled with hundreds of Chinese female pirates who live as family units , supporting one another and making a living as plunderers and sea-faring explorers. These kinds of pirate ships would consist of mothers, wives, daughters, and servant girls, and would also combine forces with men. At times, some of the women were forced into this way of life, while other volunteered their services to the cause. In other cases, a woman had no choice at all because they were born into a life of piracy. A couple of Chinese female pirates to mention include the following:

·    Li , Known much more than just the wife of Chen Acheng, Li, traveled the South China Seas during the early 1800s, and became at the center of at least 10 robberies that took place on the water. These crimes were committed with her husband and didn’t end until she was captures and made into the slave of a military officer.

·    Shi Xainggu , This female pirate went by many other names (like Cheng I Sao, Ching Yih Saou, or Zheng Yi Sao). Between 1801 and 1810, she was a South China Sea pirate responsible for the command of five or six squadrons comprised of 800 large junks and 1,000 smaller vessels that accommodated between 70,000 and 80,000 men and women.

Other Notable Pirates

Many women who lived the life of a pirate either had family in the business or craved adventure. For example, despite marrying an Admiral who earned the duty of discouraging pirates, Lady Killigrew turned her servants into sailors and successfully captured a German ship for plundering. She had come from a family with a history of piracy that continued after her passing. The article titled, “The Killigrews of Falmouth” illustrates some of the exploits of her family.

Sometimes, the female pirate came in the form of royalty, as seen in Queen Teuta, who allowed pirates to terrorize the Adriatic Sea until the Romans could no longer take the threat. To find out what happened to the queen of Illyria, check out the article titled, “Queen of the Pirates: Teuta of Illyria.”