Cross-Dressing on the Margins of Empire

Women Pirates and the Narrative of the Caribbean
  • Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert


Nearly 300 years after they sailed the Caribbean Sea from the Bahamas to Jamaica with “Calico” Jack Rackam’s crew, pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read remain the region’s most infamous women at sea.1 Their piratical careers, which ended with their capture and trial in November 1720, have fascinated writers from Captain Charles Johnson (the first chronicler of their adventures, once thought to be a pseudonym for Daniel Defoe) to the present, being recounted in countless stories, songs, novels, plays, movies, and children’s books.2 The enduring fascination of their story has been doubtless the result of their gender, of their irruption into a quintessentially male world, and of the titillation of their adventures in a highly eroticized environment. They have retained their hold on the popular imagination because of the protean nature of what is known of their personalities and adventures: just enough documentation of their escapades has survived to anchor them firmly in the history of the Caribbean at a specific time and place; enough remains tantalizingly in mystery to give the imagination endless wings.


Gender Identity General History Bare Breast Popular Imagination Read Story 
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Copyright information

© Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert and Ivette Romero-Cesareo 2001

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  • Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert

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