When you think of bad ass women one name that should be in the top five, at least, is Grace O’Malley. Born in 1530, in the county Mayo, Ireland, she dreamed of sailing the seas with her father at an early age. Naturally, her parents forbade her. Being a sailor was not the life for a young lady in the 16th century. However, Grace had other plans. She dressed up as a boy and got on her father’s ship anyway. Her parents had no choice but to relent. Under her father’s tutelage Grace became an excellent sailor. She was such an accomplished sailor that she even gave birth to one of her sons on the ship! (Talk about a kick as working mom)
At the death of Grace’s first husband she lost everything. Grace left her in-laws home and went back to her parent’s home in county Mayo along with her supporters. Back in County Mayo with her children she rebuilt her fortune through piracy, specifically targeting Spanish and Turkish ships. When England went to war with Spain Grace came to England’s aid.
During this time England was pressuring Irish Chieftains to take English titles. In doing so England slowly gained control of Ireland. There was one catch though, Grace O’Malley. She rebelled and held out refusing to accept what the English had to offer. They even went so far as to send an agent in. He tried to force Grace to submit but the more he tightened the noose the more she rebelled. He took all of her money, assets and then imprisoned her son and brother. That’s when Grace did the unexpected. She went to Queen Elizabeth herself. The details of that meeting are shrouded in mystery however, one thing is clear, Grace won the freedom of her family.
Grace died at the ripe old age of 70. She is rightfully an Irish folk hero. If you are interested in some Grace O’Malley inspired adventures take a look at these books:
- Gun Powder and Cinnamon
- Legendary Pirates: The Life and Legacy of Grace O’Malley
- Women Pirates: A brief Anthology of 13 Notorious Female Pirates