Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History

Take a look at the below list of Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History. Contrary to popular belief, most female pirates probably didn’t look much like Keira Knightley. The truth is that we don’t know much about what any of them looked like, but you can bet they were notorious, especially if the credentials that remain are to be believed. Piracy was an occupation that was dominated by men, so you know that whenever a woman got involved in the profession she was probably nothing to be trifled with. Rest assured that the female pirates on this list struck terror in the hearts of any man in their era.

List of Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History

10. Sadie the Goat


The pirate who became known as Sadie the Goat was an American bandit and river pirate who flourished in the 19th century. She got her nickname from her method of overcoming her opponents, with a quick headbutt. Once her victim was stunned, a male accomplice would strike the victim with a slingshot and rob him. Sadie started her criminal career in New York’s “bloody” fourth ward but after a bar fight with a female bouncer named Gallus Mag, she lost an ear and left the area in disgrace. Soon, Sadie was back in business with a gang of robbers who she had recruited and started robbing boats that made their way in the riverways of America.

9. Queen Teuta of Illyria

Queen Teuta of Illyria Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History

Teuta was one of the earliest known female pirates. She lived in the 3rd century B.C., taking her skills to Greek and Roman vessels traveling the Adriatic Sea. Try as they might to negotiate with her, Greek and Roman soldiers usually ended up dead in the process, leading to war that lasted from 229 to 227 BC, after which time she was never allowed to sail again.

8. Grace O’Malley

Grace O’Malley Top Most Famous Notorious Female Pirates in History 2018

Grace was a female pirate from Ireland who came from a family of pirates. By 1530 she had started her own endeavors along the Irish coastline, which soon posed considerable problems for British and Spanish shipping. In 1574 she was captured by the British, who imprisoned her for 18 months, but upon her release, she was back in business again. She died in 1603.

7. Jacquotte Delahaye

Jacquotte Delahaye Top Most Popular Notorious Female Pirates in History 2018

If it weren’t for the needs of a handicapped brother, Jacquotte Delahaye might have turned out to be quite a lady. Unfortunately, a need to provide for his care forced her to take drastic measures, such as piracy, a trade she practiced in the 17th century. Once captured by the government, she disguised herself as a man in order to escape, but within a few years she was back in business under the name Back From the Dead Red, under which she ruled the Carribean waters until she was killed in a shoot-out over a piece of land.

6. Rachel Wall


In 1760, an American woman named Rachel Schmidt was born. Later, she married a man named George Wall, to take his name and start in the business of piracy. Working from the Isle of Shoals, Wall recruited men and captured ships to start her business, which she ran quite successfully until 1789, when she was captured, tried, and hanged for her crimes. She is one of the Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History.

5. Sayyida al-Hurra


Ruling the western part of the Mediterranian was a female pirate who was called Sayyida al-Hurra, which is only a title since her real name was never known. Ruling her realm from 1515 to 1542, al-Hurra was said to have started her trade as revenge on Christian rulers. She eventually married the king of Morocco, but after only a few years was overthrown by her son. Her fate is not known.

4. Jeanne de Clisson

Jeanne de Clisson Top Most Notorious Female Pirates in History 2019

Jeanne de Clisson started her life happily enough as the wife of an English soldier named Olivier III de Clisson and had four children. Unfortunately, when he proposed to give up part of the English countryside to an enemy, French King Philip VI had him executed. With the money she received for three properties she owned, she bought three ships and headed out on a life of piracy. She wreaked havoc on the English Channel, killing enemy sailors and capturing their vessels until 1356, when she retired and married an English nobleman, Sir Walter Bentley.

3. Mary Read

Mary Read Top Popular Notorious Female Pirates in History 2019


Mary Reed began her life as the daughter of a sea captain. Once she grew older, however, she disguised herself as a male and joined the British military. She married a sailor, but after he was killed in the Carribean she was captured by pirates and recruited as one of their own. She soon befriended fellow female pirate, Anne Bonny, who was the only one who knew she was a female. She was eventually captured by the English in 1720, but after she escaped briefly, she was returned to prison and died there the next year from a fever.

2. Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History 2017

Anne Bonny was probably one of the most famous of all female pirates. She started life as the daughter of an Irish lawyer, but later married a small-time pirate named James Bonny and moved to the Bahamas. She soon parted ways with Bonny after she met and fell in love with yet another pirate, John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham, and joined his crew, and later joined up with Mary Reed. In 1720, Rackham and his crew were captured by the British and executed, while Bonny and Reed were both spared since they were pregnant. What became of Bonny after this is unknown.

1. Ching Shih

Ching Shih Top Notorious Female Pirates in History 2017

While most piracy took place in the Atlantic Ocean, there was some in waters off the coast of China, led primarily by a female pirate named Ching Shih, who reigned supreme in the 19th century. In 1801, Shih married the captain of a pirate gang and joined his crew. Following the death of her husband, she took command of his ships, calling them the Red Flag Fleet, and eventually started capturing British and Chinese ships. In 1810, she signed a truce with the Chinese government and returned to her former business, running a brothel until her death in 1844.

These are the Top 10 Notorious Female Pirates in History. Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned, or so goes the popular saying. Whether that is what led these ladies to piracy is anyone’s guess.