A survey of seldom-heard accounts of female pirates.
Organized loosely by motivation for becoming a pirate, each chapter covers a woman buccaneer from ancient times to the late 19th century. Some individuals were rulers who took up piratical navy practices, others began as thieves or sex workers. Readers learn mostly about white women who sailed all over the world, but the profiles include Muslim ruler Sayyida al-Hurra from Granada and Cheng I Sao from China, the most successful pirate (of any gender) of all time. Readers may question whether a single act of piracy makes a couple of the women worthy of the title of “pirate,” but the accounts universally make for good stories. Sidebars provide pertinent historical context, such as background on the status of women in medieval Europe and the history of Viking longships. Duncombe (Pirate Women, 2017, etc.) is invested in her topic, stressing how these historical figures who rebelled against the status quo can help modern women feel empowered. She also acknowledges the difficulty of establishing firm historical facts in many cases and often includes contradictory reports, encouraging readers to be open to different interpretations. Illustrations and maps would have greatly enhanced the text. Each chapter ends with further reading, although many of the works cited are too complex for this book’s intended audience.
A thought-provoking treatise on charting one’s destiny without societal constrictions. (notes, selected bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12-16)