While I was pirating at the Captree Fall Festival in September, many mothers would point out to their daughters the lady pirates as though they never heard of female pirates. As I was walking with some children, holding shovels in my hand during a treasure hunt, one middle age woman said, “A female pirate!” and gave me thumbs up.
At moments like these, I feel that one of the most important parts of my job as a reenactor is to break stereotypes and educate about the lesser known aspects of history. Historically there have been females pirates: Grace O’Malley, Anne Bonny, and Mary Read, to name a few.
In addition to blowing out of the water historical stereotypes it feels good to be able to encourage girls to rethink a woman’s place in society. While in the restroom at Captree I was talking to a girl and her female relative. The woman told the girl to tell me what she wanted to be when she grew up. When the girl responded she wanted to be a pet walker or a babysitter, the woman responded by saying,” What happened to you wanting to be a nurse like mommy?” I told the girl that if she likes animals she could become a veterinarian. There’s nothing wrong with walking dogs or being a babysitter ,but sometimes girls need to be reminded that there are other choices. That yes women can be pirates, doctors, airplane pilots. Sometimes being a reenactor is being a soldier in the woman’s rights army fighting for recognition of a woman’s ability to do anything she sets her mind to.
The promoting of the strong woman image is not confined to pirate reenactors. You’ll find female jousters, heavy weapon fighters and fencers in medieval reenactment groups. Women warriors? How quickly we forget about Joan of Arc, Queen Maeve of Connaught and Boudica of Britain.
Reenactors help keep the legacy of these women warriors alive. Being a reenactor is also about reminding girls they don’t have to be all sugar and spice, that sometimes a little vinegar is needed. It’s about encouraging girls to be fighters by using their wits be it a union rep, a lawyer, or politically active. Sometimes it’s about letting girls know that women can take up arms to protect themselves and their loved ones, their property or country.
It’s all about reminding girls that well behaved women rarely make history.