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May 21, 2009


The Somali pirates have fallen out of the news since our SEALS popped 3 of them to rescue the captain of a ship they hijacked. But during the height of the crisis, much was made about how piracy was practically unknown in this modern age, outside of Disney and rum. Articles like this chin-puller analyzed how Obama might compare with previous pirate-fighting presidents.

My reaction: hey, they forgot about Irene M. "Mammy" Dunn, M.D., the fearless pirate fighter of the Santa Maria!

Mammy was my grandmother, who graduated in 1908 from Syracuse University as an MD (take that, woman's libbers) who traveled the world in the 50's and 60's. One of her trips was aboard the ship Santa Maria, which was hijacked by Portuguese political radicals in a bid to draw attention to their cause.

Here is an excerpt from a book by one of the hijackers, and here is a news story that says that a TV movie was being made last year about the hijacking. And here's a web post that says that the press frenzy was so intense that one reporter who literally missed the boat to go out to cover the story actually hired a small plane and parachuted from it, trying to land on the Santa Maria but ending up in the ocean instead. It also says the US Marines had been called up to lay down covering fire when the ship was stormed by Brazilian troops, but the hijackers negotiated their release before that happened.

My Sainted Mother, who is Mammy's daughter, collected all of Mammy's memorabilia - newspaper clippings, magazine articles, etc -  and journal notes, and we have them here at the palatial McMahon compound.  It's quite a story, and an interesting peek into the world of my childhood. For instance, the newspaper articles routinely gave the home addresses of the people they quoted.

So let's not forget that along with three Presidents, at least one brave American women fought to rid the world of piracy.

Posted by: JBD at 05:58 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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