Influential Women #10: Jacquotte Delahaye

For number 10 in my Influential Women series, I wanted to find a woman whom I know would shock. A while back, I read the book “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls“, and in it one woman in particular caught my attention: Jacquotte Delahaye, pirate. Yes, she was a pirate, much like the infamous Captain Hook and Captain Jack Sparrow. Only, Jacquotte  Delahaye was real.

I could give you the biographical facts: Jacquotte and her younger, retarded brother were born to a French father and a Haitian mother. Their mother died in childbirth, and her father died a few years later, leaving Jacquotte to care for her mentally disabled brother. She became a pirate to provide for him and for herself, and her quick wit and ability to use her disadvantages to her advantage helped her become the legendary pirate she was known as.

Now, since this all happened in the early 17th century and since there aren’t many sources left, none of this is certain – yet, if we are to believe the legends, Jacquotte was not only a smart and strong woman. Legend has it Jacquotte’s father did not just die: he was murdered. Incapable of coping with the loss, Jacquotte took to the sea. As we all know, a woman as a captain of a ship was unheard of, and consequently Jacquotte made many enemies. To escape a horrific fate caused by one of her enemies, she faked her own death and laid low for a while.

Eventually, Jacquotte came back, and stronger than ever. Known as “back from the dead red” (a reference to her fiery red hair) she is said to have lead a gang of hundreds of pirates, and eventually even took control over a Caribbean Island in 1656. In the pirate-world it was called a freebooter republic. Not much long after, however, the island was attacked, and Jacquotte was killed defending it.

So, no: no happy ending to this story. Yet it is not because Jacquotte was defeated, she should be forgotten. All her life she fought valiantly for her freedom and for her right to live her life the way she wanted to. She was the commander of hundreds of men, and pirates or not, that is how she should be remembered.

  • L. Parole

Disclaimer: there was not much reliable factual information to be found about Jacquotte Delahaye, not on the internet nor in the library. Everything in this post is based on readings of different legends based on her life, and should thus not be approached as a truly factual biography. The image, too, is no more than a mere depiction of what Jacquotte could have looked like found on google, and not an official depiction of her.


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