Contrary to popular belief, not all pirates hobbled on peg-legs with talking parrots perched on their shoulders, patches covering their eyes, and broad West Country accents sharpening their vowels. One of the most important, fascinating, and relatively forgotten pirates was actually a woman, known to history as the so-called "Pirate Queen."
There have been other lady pirates in history, but perhaps none as significant as Gráinne Ní Mháille, better known by the Anglicized version of her Irish name, Grace O'Malley. She was born in western Ireland around 1530. Though brought up in a life of relative privilege and wealth, she also faced limitations on her ambitions. The Ireland of her birth was one of eroding independence, as England sought to exert more and more influence over the island to its west. Though all pirates are political to some extent, O'Malley was especially so: the politics of Ireland and Tudor England became tangled up in her business. Today she is even remembered as a rebel and symbol of Irish resistance and independence in the face of English colonization.
By the time of her death in around 1603, she had become one of the most significant and powerful women in all of Ireland. This female pirate was chieftain of her clan, captain of her ships, and badass extraordinaire. She wasn't just history's most important woman pirate; she was also a mother, wife, lover, political actor, business manager, and folk hero at various points in her long and colorful life.
She Was The Daughter Of A Powerful Irish ChieftainPhoto: Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons
She May Have Disguised Herself As A Boy To Go To SeaPhoto: Edward Keble / via Wikimedia Commons
She Married Twice And Profited Both TimesPhoto: Dante Gabriel Rossetti / via Wikimedia Commons
Legend Claims She Gave Birth To Her Son On A Ship During A BattlePhoto: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris / via Wikimedia Commons
She Became A Chieftain In Her Own RightPhoto: Keith Salvesen / via Wikimedia Commons
She Opposed The English Tax System By Imposing Her Own Pirate "Taxes"Photo: Thomas Buttersworth / via Wikimedia Commons