Two swashbuckling queer female pirates erased from history commemorated with powerful new statue

Audible Anne Bonny Mary Read Hell Cats

Two trailblazing female pirates who shared a tender same-sex romance have been commemorated with a striking new statue. 

Anne Bonny and Mary Read, born in the late 18th century, have largely been erased from history by predominantly male historians – but now, they are taking their rightful place in the annals of the past.

The women, who were lovers, have been immortalised by artist Amanda Cotton in a sculpture titled Inexorable.

Previewed at London’s Execution Docks on 18 November, the artwork was commissioned to mark the launch of Hell Cats, a new Audible podcast that celebrates Bonny and Read’s lives and their love for one another.

In creating the powerful sculpture, Cotton decided to focus on the women’s incredible personalities and lives instead of their appearances.

“The sculpture’s design is a metaphor for Bonny and Read’s personalities – fire and earth,” she said.

“Individually they were strong independent women but when Anne (fire) and Mary (earth) combine, they were dangerously unstoppable.”

The sculpture is made from marine concrete, and will be permanently homed at Burgh Island, a South Devon tidal retreat that was popular with pirates.

“The marine concrete the sculpture is made of will, over time, create a habitable environment for the surrounding wildlife, whilst being cast into the natural rock so that the two figures truly become one with their environment,” Cotton added.

Inexorable will be open to the public from early 2021. 

Hell Cats transports listeners to the high seas.

Bonny was born in Ireland in 1697, while Read was born in England in 1685.

The women were both disguised as boys as children in an effort to escape poverty, and it wasn’t until they took to the seas that they found freedom in each other’s arms. 

Hell Cats Audible statue Amanda Cotton

The statue, titled ‘Inexorable’, was debuted by artist Amanda Cotton as the Audible podcast Hell Cats debuted (Audible)

They quickly fell in love once they met, and went on to sail across the Carribean looting treasure and leaving a trail of ex-lovers behind them. 

Hell Cats, a new Audible Original podcast written by Carina Rodney and directed by Kate Saxon, explores Bonny and Read’s extraordinary story while also delving into themes of equality, freedom, love and survival. 

The story is retold with a diverse cast of 52 voice actors, with Bonny played by Michelle Fox (Overshadowed, A Very English Scandal) and Read played by Erin Doherty (The Crown, Les Miserables). 

Hell Cats reclaims Bonny and Read’s place as some of the world’s most exciting pirates – and Cotton’s statue makes sure they will never be forgotten again.

“They broke gender boundaries and stunned people at the time,” said historian Kate Williams.

“It’s imperative that we continue to unearth the hidden voices, histories of many women and LGBTQ+ persons.” 

Hell Cats is available exclusively on Audible, and an exclusive limited run of Hell Cats merch is available through Audible’s Instagram.