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

by Laura Sook Duncombe

Hardcover, 2017




Chicago Review Press, (2017)


"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 four hundred ships off China in the early nineteenth century. Author Laura Sook Duncombe also looks beyond the stories to the storytellers and mythmakers. What biases and agendas motivated them? What did they leave out? Pirate Women explores why and how these stories are told and passed down, and how history changes depending on who is recording it. It's the most comprehensive overview of women pirates in one volume and chock-full of swashbuckling adventures that pull these unique women from the shadows into the spotlight that they deserve."--Amazon.com.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MickyFine
This non-fiction title recounts the stories of female pirates both real and fictional from the ancient Mediterranean to the twentieth century. I finished the book with really mixed feelings about it and thus this review is more of a pros and cons list.

-Duncombe takes an intersectional feminist approach to this history, which is lovely to see.
-The women highlighted here are fascinating and worthy of broader awareness.
-Awesome lady pirates!

-Duncombe states herself she's not an historian and it shows in spots.
-Some passages which are labelled as context turn out to be extensive digressions.
-Duncombe treats both real and fictional/folklore lady pirates identically, making it difficult to differentiate between them without flipping back.
-The final chapter on women pirates in cinema is pretty weak, focused exclusively on Hollywood film (although she drops tantalizing hints about Italian female-led pirate films in the 1950s), and ends up being a rant about the lack of female-led films, which is a rant I understand but not what I came for to a book about women pirates. Not the best final note for the book.

Ultimate verdict, worth picking up but you may want to skim bits and I'd skip the final chapter altogether.
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