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brig Venus 1806

In 1805 the brig Venus was captured by some of its passengers in Two fold Bay, Australia, and the crew sent ashore.
Benjamin Barnet Kelly-the first mate, Richard Edwards-the second mate, Joseph Redmonds- a seaman, Thomas Ford- the cabin boy, a Malay cook, John Lancashire- a convict, Catherine Hagerty, Charlotte Badger and her child, David Evans- pilot, and Richard Thompson- soldier, were on board. They sailed for the Bay of Islands.
On a winter's day in June 1806 Captain Chase returned to his ship the Venus. He had left it docked at Port Darymple in Northern Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) earlier to go ashore. He was eager to continue on his voyage to Hobart, where he would offload the cargo of supplies and convicts after a somewhat troublesome journey. Imagine his surprise when he found his ship gone.

A mix of twelve crew and convicts had taken over the ship and sailed out into the Tasman Sea setting a course for New Zealand. Among these twelve were two female convicts, Charlotte Badger and Catherine Hagerty, and they had just become Australia’s first female pirates. 

Charlotte Badger was twenty-two days short of her twentieth birthday when found guilty of house-breaking on 9 July 1796. Her trial was held at Worcester, England, and the presiding judge sentenced her to seven years transportation. In November of the following year she boarded the Earl Cornwallis and 206 days later arrived at Port Jackson in New South Wales, Australia.

She was sent to Parramatta Female Factory—a place for hardened and troublesome convicts and those who were not assigned into service. Here she met Catherine Hagerty and they became good friends.

With two years of her sentence still remaining Charlotte gave birth to a baby girl. Female factories were not healthy environments for children as many of them died as infants. But in April 1806 the child was given a reprieve when Charlotte and Catherine were assigned to a settler in Hobart.

At this time the Venus was docked at Port Jackson and ready to sail for Hobart. The only obstacle to the ship leaving was a shortage of crew. The authorities requested the captain take on board the two women and a number of male convicts. Captain Chase was not happy with this, but because his ship was undermanned he felt obliged to do so.

His reservations were soon realised. Once out at sea the crew began drinking, Charlotte took up with the first mate Benjamin Kelly and Catherine with John Lancashire, a fellow convict.

The captain later reported that the crew and convicts committed acts of vandalism, and he accused them of drunkenness and immorality. He was surely relieved to reach Port Darymple knowing that Hobart was the next stop and he would no longer have to put up with his unwanted cargo. But first he had to deliver some official dispatches and it was on his return he found the Venus gone.

With a full load of supplies the Venus was on its way to New Zealand, attacking and plundering other ships unlucky enough to be sailing the same waters. It was now a pirate ship.

Some reports say Charlotte was the ringleader, while others name her as an accessory. Whatever the case, she and Catherine were actively involved in the mutiny. The governor of New South Wales issued a description of the offenders, Charlotte was described as 'very corpulent, with full face, thick lips and light hair' and as having an infant child with her. Catherine's description was 'middle sized, light hair, fresh complexion.'

Upon reaching New Zealand, the two women, along with Benjamin Kelly, John Lawrence and Charlotte's child, left the vessel at Rangihoua Bay. The Venus continued on down the coast of the North Island where it was wrecked and the crew killed.

Meanwhile those left at Rangihoua Bay set up camp and were living on supplies taken from the ship. Within six months Catherine was dead of some disease and a short while later the men were captured and returned to Port Jackson. Charlotte and her daughter remained at Rangihoua Bay and moved in with a local Maori rangatira (chief or warrior.)

Over the following years Charlotte was twice offered passage back to Port Jackson but declined. She must have eventually changed her mind or maybe her relationship with the Maoris deteriorated because sometime around 1806-07 she and her daughter turned up in Tonga.

What exactly happened to Charlotte after this is not clear. Some reports say she went to America, others say she eventually returned to Port Jackson.

In New Zealand Charlotte is remembered as the first Pakeha (white woman) in the country. In Tasmania it is said Badger Head, part of the Narawntapu National Park, is named after her. And both women are mentioned in a plaque on the banks of the Tamar River as being involvement in the mutiny of the Venus.

© Paula Wilson http://www.openwriting.com/archives/2009/05/female_pirates_1.php