5 Ways Pirates Were Way More Modern Than You Realize

#2. Pirates Were Equal-Opportunity Employers


In a time when the job options for women consisted of "servant," "wife," and "prostitute" (and all three of which were variations of the word "property"), piracy was an attractively viable career choice. This is because some pirates didn't give one peg-legged starfish fart about gender roles when they crewed their ships -- if you could murder and pillage with remorseless glee, they'd happily take you aboard. And if a woman wound up out-pirating her scurvy comrades, she could even become captain, as depicted in the historical document Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Chin Shih, for example, was a Chinese prostitute who married a pirate captain. When her husband died, she decided to seize control of his fleet, which at the time consisted of more than 1,500 ships and over 60,000 pirates, because that was a way better option than going back to work at a terrifying hooker barn. Over in Ireland, lady-scoundrel Grace O' Malley commanded 200 men and an entire fleet of pirate galleys, which seems to pale in comparison until you remember that we're talking about 200 heavily armed Irish career murderers obeying a woman's orders in the 16th century, at which point it becomes downright inspirational.

"I take it dinner's out of the question?"

But arguably the most famous female pirates were Anne Bonny and Mary Read, who joined the buccaneer crew of Captain Calico Jack. Bonny was married to Jack, and the two of them found Read disguised as a boy and working on board a Dutch merchant ship they were in the process of robbing. The two women quickly bonded because, equal opportunity notwithstanding, pirates are still goddamned pirates, and being the only female among them was probably no easy task.

As a result, Bonny and Read became one of the most hardcore duos in swashbuckling history, wielding their ferocious craziness like a pirate-themed version of Natural Born Killers, if Woody Harrelson had played both lead roles and was also a woman. They had a frightening reputation even among pirates -- when Bonny's less-than-courageous lover was challenged to a duel, she killed the challenger herself, because she knew her knee-knocking sex dispenser had no chance of winning. Later, when their ship was finally boarded, it was Bonny and Read who stayed on deck fighting off the king's soldiers, while Jack hid below with the rest of the men and shattered a lot of illusions.

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"Just ... looking for my ... um ... sword!"

The three of them were captured, and as Calico Jack was being led away to his execution, Bonny lovingly told him, "Had you fought like a man, you need not have been hang'd like a dog." We can only assume some sassy bailiff overheard and whistled "DAAAYUM" in response.

#1. Pirates Had Democratic Elections

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Back in Piratey Times (the official historical term for the 17th century), less than 3 percent of the population in England had the power to vote. In general, unless you owned a ton of property and your skin was the same color as your powdered wig, nobody in Parliament gave one rusty chamber pot lid about your opinion. And that was the rule for gentle, educated, law-abiding citizens, so there's no way illiterate stab-happy pirates would've seen the value in the democratic process unless it was voting on how many punches to throw into a prisoner's solar plexus before tossing him overboard into a cloud of sharks. Right?

"Hey, throw that treasure back up to us when you're down there."

Actually, Jack Ward, a wildly successful pirate captain who deserted from the Royal Navy along with 30 of his shipmates (because high-seas robbery is way more lucrative than being in the military), was elected captain by popular vote of his crew. This pretty much became the process by which every pirate captain was selected -- after all, it's difficult to convince a band of thugs with charming wooden prosthetics to take orders from you while you're all floating in a boat hundreds of miles from any sort of legal consequence if they don't unanimously agree you should be in charge.

"Know what? I think I've decided that you're kind of a douche. And I'm juuuuust bored enough to stab."

Some of these grizzled pirates no doubt grasped the complex relationship between elected officials and their constituents, and realized the value in having a leader who both understood and represented their best interests. Others probably based their vote more on who had killed the most men with his bare hands and/or had the gnarliest fanged-mermaid tattoo. Either way, every pirate had a say, regardless of how frivolous or ignorant, and that's pretty much the literal definition of democracy.

When Paige Turner isn't writing about dicks on the Internet, she's ... writing about dicks elsewhere. David is waging a one-man war to be the funniest phone number on the Internet. See the videos for his phone number on his YouTube channel here.

For more things you have wrong about history, check out 6 Things From History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly and 6 Ridiculous History Myths (You Probably Think Are True).

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