Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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IRWING Mary Katie, English adventuress, born in the island of Guernsey in 1678; died in Port Royal, Jamaica, in 1721. Her parents kept a sailors' boarding-house, and at the age of twelve she eloped with a boy named William Read, dressed in her brother's clothes, and with Read shipped as a sailor on a merchantman that was apparently bound for the West Indies. The ship proved to be a slaver, and was captured near Tortugas island by buccaneers, who murdered the crew, except a few who enlisted among them William and Mary were spared for their youth, and served four years with the pirates, who would have remained in ignorance of Mary's sex but for a wound she received in an engagement with a Spanish man-of-war. When her wound was healed she resumed female attire, but her position in the ship became unbearable, as on her account quarrels spread among the crew, in which, in 1695, young Read lost his life, and in 1696 she agreed to marry his murderer, the second mate of the ship, named Harry Walter. They lived afterward several years in Panama, where they kept a lodging-house, but after Walter's death, in 1707, Mary resumed man's attire, and armed a privateer, with which she ransacked and pillaged Les Cayes in Santo Domingo, and the coasts of Venezuela and Jamaica, securing large spoils. She soon became famous among the corsairs, as she coolly murdered those who fell into her hands, boasting that she had herself slaughtered 600 Spaniards. At last a man-of-war was specially despatched from New Spain to capture her, and, after eluding pursuit for months, she was taken near Jamaica, with the aid of an English ship, and hanged in that island.
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