Hannah SnellHannah Snell was born in 1723 in Worcester, England. As a child, her neighbours said she would play as a soldier and after moving to London in 1740 she made it into the big leagues. After her husband, James Summs, pissed off and disappeared, Hannah borrowed her brother in law's suit and name and set out to find the deadbeat. We can only imagine what sort of arse-kicking awaited him once The most determined woman in England turned up dressed like his brother. Fortunately for him, James had already been hung for murder, so her fury had to be aimed towards another target. Unfortunately for the French, she chose their colony of Pondicherry.
|She's in there somewhere artchive.com|
Hannah moved to Portsmouth and joined the Marines (who apparently didn't do very extensive physical exams back in the days of yore), taking part in the invasion of the aforementioned colony in 1748. A year later, following another battle at Devicotta, Snell was wounded 11 times in the legs and groin. Suspecting that her luck at passing the physical exam the first time might not hold out under surgery on one of the only two places someone can be shot that could scupper a gender-bending conspiracy to shoot people, she either dug the bullets out herself, or got a sympathetic Indian nurse to keep quiet.Which kind of makes her a C18th Lady Rambo?
|But with a much better hat http://enciclopedia.us.es|
To keep her identity secret on-ship, Snell had fashioned a leather horn to act like a fake penis so she could wee standing up, the ultimate sign of male bonding and companionship. She was in the Marines for 2 years, before revealing her true name to her unit at a pub in London in 1750. Perhaps as some sort of bet or to prove a point in a pub discussion. We can only wonder.
Naturally, her story raised a few eyebrows, even back in the day when eyebrows were like monoliths. She toured the nation, appearing on stage in her uniform, selling her rights to a book (suitably embellished with stories of fighting against Bonnie Prince Charlies) and being granted one of the rare Chelsea pensions for military retirees.
Hannah retired to her own pub in Wapping having two more husbands (who probably weren't hung for murder) and dying in 1792 in Bedlam. A rather ignoble end to an extraordinary woman.
Anne Bonny and Mary Read
Anne was born in County Cork in Ireland in 1702, but her family soon moved to America, where her father became a merchant after trying unsuccessfully to be an attorney. Her temperament was rather kindly described as "fiery" in her youth, given that she is accused of stabbing a kitchen maid at 13 and burning her father's plantation down because he didn't approve of her marrying a small-time pirate. Though maybe that description was quite literal.
|Pictured: Fuck You Dad http://boldtgallery.com|
After marrying a small-time pirate out of boredom or something, Bonny met Jack Rackham, a big-time pirate in a pub which was no doubt about as romantic as you can imagine. She jumped ship from her husband (ho ho ho) and joined Rackham's crew stealing the sloop Revenge from the port of Nassau, where the crew was also joined by a then-disguised Mary Read.
Read, who is guessed to have been born in 1691, was disguised as her brother Mark, as she had been from childhood following his death to trick his grandmother into supplying Read's mother with money for his upkeep. Apparently, Mark's grandmother also worked as a Marine recruitment officer 20 years later. Read joined the army, having remained disguised for years and fought with Dutch forces against the French. A theme of this article is that women dressed as men really hate the French?
|And wear the biggest trousers in all the land (L: Bonny R: Read) Wikipedia.org|
After making a name for herself in the military, Read married a Flemish soldier and bought her own pub, because she was the original soldier lady and Snell was just a poser. Paying for the pub with gifts from confused (and some relieved) soldiers, Read stayed there until her husband died, at which point she went right back to the military. However, due to there now being peace, she ducked out of that as there was not enough room for advancement (read: murder) and became a pirate instead.
Ending up in Rackham's crew, Anne Bonny took a fancy to her, thinking Read to be a "handsome young man", forcing Read to reveal her true identity before a jealous Rackham cut her throat. Read would later marry a prisoner she took, after killing another pirate who wanted to duel him for her hand. Proving that no matter how ridiculous the plots on Hollyoaks can seem, nothing matches the drama of the high seas.
|Hollyoaks: 1700 A.D. commons.wikimedia.org|
Following Rackham's stealing of Revenge from Nassau, pirate-hunter Jonathan Barnet tracked the ship and boarded it. Three people fought the boarders, Bonny, Read and one other pirate. In a rage at her ship-mates' ineffectiveness, Read reportedly shot and killed one pirate who was hiding in the hold, starting a proud tradition of killing people to motivate them that Soviet Russia would take a shine too.
Despite their best efforts, 3 people couldn't hold off a crew of King's Men (and probably some King's women given the contemporary period's track record for stopping women getting in the military) and they were captured. While Bonny and Read both received mercy because they were pregnant, Rackham was not so lucky. Bonny saw her former lover in gaol, and apparently her last words too him were;
“sorry to see you there, but if you’d fought like a man, you would not have been hang’d like a Dog”
Historians haven't found evidence that this was followed by Read shouting "Diss" and Bonny dropping a microphone, so we are forced to assume it was.
While Read would die in prison, Bonny simply disappeared, either having been bought out by her father, or simply continued her voyages of destruction under a new name.
Cheng I Sao
While we're on the subject of pirates, one of the most successful (as in, wasn't hung from a yardarm while idiots in powdered wigs said "huzzah") pirates was a Cantonese woman called Cheng I Sao, or Ching Shih.
A former prostitute, she married a notorious Cantonese pirate named Zheng Yi. Not content with being a pirate's WAG, she "participated fully" in the day-to-day operations aboard ship and helped him gather a large alliance of previously fighting Cantonese pirates into the 'Red Flag Fleet'.
Zheng died in Vietnam in 1807, so Cheng had to force her way to the top of the leadership position, securing alliances with the most powerful and influential pirate leaders and Zheng's family. Under her guidance, the Red Flag Fleet became the most poweful naval force in the South China Sea. The Chinese fleet couldn't stop them. The Portuguese fleet couldn't stop them. And oh my lawd the British fleet couldn't stop them, gotdamn they were so good at being pirates.
|And she did it while being sepia, good for her|
In addition to telling 2 of the most powerful European powers to piss off and go back to dicking about in Africa, Cheng managed to get a huge group of rowdy pirates to follow her strict set of rules for duty. How she did this is actually rather uncomplicated and involves a lot of beheadings. Not sharing your pirate booty? Beheaded. Stealing from friendly villages? Beheaded. Raping female captives? Say goodbye to your brain pan bro. Have a quick consensual bone instead of manning your post? A meeting with your captain to have your performance evaluated and an action plan put in place to meet your job requirements via a beheading.
|Many a Chinese neckbeard cried "misandry" only once when told he couldn't rape any more.||John Morris, Flickr|
Like many pirates (read: fuck all of them) Cheng negotiated a pardon from the Chinese government wherein she kept all her loot and was allowed to retire peacefully until she died in 1844 at the age of 69.
IT'S RUSSIA TIME
Zinadia, born to a working-class Belarussian family in 1926, moved to her grandmother's in 1940 just in time to witness the start of Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia. When a German soldier stole her grandmother's cows and hit her, Zinadia swore revenge, completing the superhero origin story by joining a resistance group named "Young Avengers".
|Yeah kind of, expect with less spandex and more horror|
But rather than engaging in witty, vaguely disjointed and homoerotic hi-jinks, Portnova stole German weapons, distributed propaganda and spied on enemy troop movements. Getting bored with the Rogue class, she got some other members of her cell to teach her how to use explosives, putting her knowledge into practice by blowing up German facilities.
Simply blowing people up wasn't the only tool in Portnova's increasingly expansive arsenal. After being drafted to work in the kitchens of a German garrison, she poisoned the entire garrison. Falling under suspicion, she ate the food herself as a way to appear innocent. The investigators, after waiting for 5 seconds and not seeing Portnova grab her throat and start choking dramatically, sent her on her way. She proceeded to drink huge amounts of whey to counter act the poison, which also made her totally ripped bruh. Despite her near indestructibility, consuming massive amounts of poison and anti-poison made her late for work, so the investigators once again placed her under suspicion.
|"Well she didn't have one of these so she can't have done it"|
Zinadia became a scout for a partisan unit to get the heat off, but was sent back to the garrison after 'Young Avengers' went quiet. Being recognised, she was arrested in 1944, but escaped after taking the interrogator's pistol and shooting him and two guards. Upon her recapture, following either a pistol misfire or being stuck on a riverbank she was executed on 15th January 1944, receiving the Order of Lenin and posthumously declared a Hero of the Soviet Union.
|"Oh look, a tank, cool!"|
Noor Inayat Khan
The year, 1943, a balmy June night. A RAF Lysander (a small light prop plane used in WW2 for rescuing/inserting British personnel in France) lands in a field in Nazi-occupied Germany. It's cargo; the daughter of a prominent Indian Muslim family with an American mother, fighting the Germans on behalf of Britain to bring England and the people of India closer together. The storm of multiculturalism was named Noor Inayat Khan.
|Also bossed Sitar Hero|
Born in Russia, fleeing to Britain at the outbreak of World War Two: Genocide Harder, Khan joined up to oppose Nazi tyrannt with her brother, Vilayat, and to prove to the people of England that Indians could fight for the glory of Britain and were you know, worth not spitting on all the time.
|Despite many Indians nearly starving to death defending Kut in WW1|
Trained as a wireless operator, then rushed through espionage training, codename Nurse/Madeleine would be the last transmitting wireless operator in Paris for the British within 2 months of her landing. The rest of her section had all been arrested or killed, and Khan was singlehandedly trying to keep the Prosper/Physician (good code-names hadn't been invented yet) spy ring together.
Khan was the most wanted agent in Paris, with security forces across the city constantly supplied with up-to-date and accurate descriptions of her and wireless detecting vans being so widespread she could only broadcast for 20 minutes at a time before having to move. Eventually the chase came to an end, as Khan was captured by the security services, probably due to betrayal by a French resistance member.
|You are a disgrace to your beret|
The trained, hardened Nazi security officers went to arrest her. Khan fought back so viciously that the men would come to fear her and she spent the next 11 months shackled at the hands and feet, barring one escape attempt that was thwarted by an air raid causing a routine prisoner check. Condemned to "disappearance without trace", Khan was moved to Dachau concentration camp and executed by gunshot, her last word being "liberte".
Throughout the whole of her imprisonment and interrogation, members of the group questioning her after the war testified she told them nothing.