A female pirate, with two swords crossed underneath her to mimic the Jolly Roger

Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas

by Laura Sook Duncombe Author

Profiling some of history’s most prominent, yet widely unknown, female swashbucklers and sailors from across the world, author Laura Sook Duncombe offers up stories of these women from an historic and feminist perspective—taking as truth what can be verified while being mindful that the existence of some of these legendary figures is still up for debate. In doing so, she examines how historians and mythmakers may have influenced these stories through their own biases, suppression, and interpretation. Among the luminaries covered are: Sayyida al Hurra, a pirate queen who sought revenge on Christians; Grace O'Mally, who terrorized the seas during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; and Queen Tueta, who resisted Roman rule by expanding piracy into a way of life for her country.

  • A female pirate, with two swords crossed underneath her to mimic the Jolly Roger

In the first-ever Seven Seas history of the world’s female buccaneers, Pirate Women: The Princesses, Prostitutes, and Privateers Who Ruled the Seven Seas tells the story of women, both real and legendary, who through the ages sailed alongside—and sometimes in command of—their male counterparts. These women came from all walks of life but had one thing in common: a desire for freedom. History has largely ignored these female swashbucklers, until now. Here are their stories, from ancient Norse princess Alfhild and warrior Rusla to Sayyida al-Hurra of the Barbary corsairs; from Grace O’Malley, who terrorized shipping operations around the British Isles during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; to Cheng I Sao, who commanded a fleet of 400 ships off China in the early nineteenth century.