Rachel Schmidt’s childhood was far from idyllic. She was born to a devoutly religious family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in the year 1760. Her family owned a farm, but a life living off the land held no appeal to young Rachel. Instead, she found herself instinctively drawn to the city’s waterfront. The docks were no place for a young lady on her own, however, and one day she was attacked. But, so the legend goes, a man by the name of George Wall came to her rescue. The two were soon besotted with one another and, while Rachel’s mother objected to the union, got married. Luckily for the bride, George owned a boat…
After George returned from one of his many trips to sea, he finally persuaded his wife to join him on a voyage. She readily accepted, and along with a motely crew and their loves, the couple set sail on a schooner. Soon, however, their funds ran out. Should they return to shore? Rachel could go back to her job as a house servant perhaps. But George had a better idea: Why don’t they become pirates instead?
Whether Rachel accepted the proposals enthusiastically or if she needed convincing, nobody knows for sure. But before long, she was not only a crew member of a pirate ship but was playing a crucial role in targeting its victims. She would play the ‘damsel in distress’, standing up on deck alone and calling at passing boats for help. Should a vessel come to her aid, the pirates would storm the ship, kill all its occupants and steal whatever they could get their hand on. In all, it’s estimated that between 1781 and 1782, George, Rachel and their crew captured 12 boats, stole thousands of pounds in money, and killed as many as 24 people.
She might have gotten away with it, too, had it not been for her own arrogance and greed. Once their spree was over, the outlaw couple returned to dry land and Rachel resumed life in domestic service, this time in Boston. But she couldn’t help herself: She would frequently go down to the docks and, if she saw something she liked, would steal it for herself. She was finally caught trying to steal a fancy bonnet and hauled before the judge on a charge of robbery.
On the dock, Rachel requested that she be tried for piracy. She admitted her crimes but maintained she had personally never killed anyone. Despite her pleas, she was found guilty of piracy and sentenced to death, aged just 29. She holds the distinct honor of being the last woman to be hanged in the State of Massachusetts