20 Fascinating Facts You Didn’t Know About Pirates

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Image: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

8. There were transgender pirates

It seems that pirates were surprisingly relaxed about sexual politics, and this casual attitude extended to transgendered people. One such was Englishwoman Mary (or Mark) Read, a pirate in the so-called Golden Age of Piracy in the early part of the 18th century. Read had dressed and acted as a man for most of her life as a footman and soldier and then a pirate. Though she was captured and sentenced to hang in 1721, she escaped the noose as she was pregnant. However, her luck didn’t last: she later died in jail.

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Image: Howard Pyle

9. Walking the plank was rare

Making a prisoner walk the plank, presumably resulting in death by drowning, was not at all common and occurs mostly in fiction. However, pirates were not averse to cruel and unusual punishment, and keelhauling was sometimes inflicted on miscreants. This barbaric practice involved dragging a man under a ship from one side to the other with ropes and could easily result in death by serious injury or drowning.

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