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Rachel Wall

Female Pirate

Born: Unknown

Died: 1789

Born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1760, Rachel Wall (maiden name Schmidt) led a largely normal life for the time period.

While in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania she met and eventually married a man named George Wall when Rachel was only (approximately) sixteen years old. After becoming married, the two moved to Boston where Rachel took a job as a maid and George as a sailor for a local fishing schooner.

Life in 18th century Boston was not easy for the young couple, and it was not long until George suggested to five sailor friends that they ought to give up the fisherman's life and take up outright Piracy. Many of the men he approached had all served as licensed Privateers in the past, so the leap to full fledged Pirate was not a tremendous one, and they accepted the opportunity.

Realizing that he would need every hand he could find in order to assemble an effective crew, George asked Rachel to join them. In exchange for a share of any captured loot, a friend of George's allowed them the use of his fishing schooner.

Like all good plans, their's was a simple one. The crew would use the boat for honest fishing and wait for inclement or stormy weather. When the weather turned, they would put out a distress single to lure ships to them and take them by force and the crew killed. Once the loot was transferred over to the Pirate's boat, the aiding ship would be sunk to make it appear that the ship had actually sunk due to the storm.

This scheme worked well for over a year, until a particularly intense storm caught George Wall by surprise in 1782. While the fierce storm raged over the schooner, George and another crewman were swept overboard and their boat beaten to ruins.

Rachel and the remaining crew were able to survive until rescuers found them and returned them to Boston. Their Pirating scheme destroyed, and Rachel now a widow, she soon was forced to return to her old job as a servant, but having become used to robbery and the easy money it provided, Rachel eventually returned to stealing.

The popular accounting of Rachel Walls tells a story of her sneaking aboard ships while the sailors slept and stealing their valuables, but anyone who has ever tried to move quietly aboard a wooden ship can tell you that this is highly unlikely. The noise from creaking deck planks created with each step is unmistakable, and every ship kept a watchman on deck at night.

A much more likely theory is that Rachel Wall had been forced by poverty into a life of prostitution and would steal from her clients once they had fallen asleep. Predictably, it was not long before she was arrested and convicted of robbery, and suspicion of murdering a local sailor that had been recently found dead along the waterfront.

At trial Rachel openly confessed to the charges against her for piracy and theft, but she insisted that she had never murdered anyone.  Her pleas of innocence did not sway the judge, however,  and Rachel was hanged on October 8th, 1789.

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