However, during the last ten years the attitude of the criminal justice system has changed as criminal investigators started to consider the fact that women can actually play an active role in the mafia day to day business beyond that of the traditional one which sees them staying at home. This change in the perception of the investigators is a reason for the higher numbers of female mafia related crimes, which suggests that these increasing figures and statistic could have been masked by the unseen reality. For this reason it is hard to look into the new figures with much depth as they may be misleading.
For a more accurate approach into the lives of the women in the mafia we have to look closer at actually accounts from the few that have spoken out, also we must look at recent events and extract what evidence we can from there. There are plenty examples of recent mafia activity at the moment but none more famous than that of the shooting in a small town near Naples. In the Lauro Valley in south Italy two mafia families have been fighting a murderous campaign for control of the valley for the last 30 years- the Cavas and the Grazinos.
This particular incident has shot to fame due to the nature that all parties involved were female. It started while 2 women from opposite families were in the same beauty parlour. It started with simply petty name calling which escalated with young Clarissa Cava slapping Alba Grazinos, whom stormed out hissing of her revenge. When these two families are concerned revenge means revenge. Less than half a week later Clarissa whilst driving home with her 2 aunts, her sister and her cousin was shot dead when members of the Grazinos opened fire with machine guns on their car.
Police later arrested 9 members of the Grazinos family in connection with the murders. This type of case was previously unheard of but now in the Naples region home of the so called Camorra it is becoming all too common. The great taboo was now broken with women proving to be just as vengeful as men. Operation Dynasty provided further evidence. In Syracuse, east Sicily, police rounded up a mafia family which was dominated and run by women. In the dawn raids police arrested 12 key members all of whom were women.
These women were wanted for a number of crimes including drugs trafficking and possession of arms. Many of these women were wives, daughters or mistresses of famous male heads of families who have been imprisoned for many years. This just goes to show that after the men had been caught and arrested the women were forced to take over the roles, the number of reported 'Godmothers' are at the highest they have ever been. So in today's society more and more mafia families are being headed by women, by Godmothers and more and more women are taking active roles within the family business.
So has this role changed? Has the secret world of the mafia always included women and new laws and methods have only just unearthed the truth? Or have women only just started to take up arms and get involved, and if so why now? Well I think the role of women within the mafia has remained the same. There primary task is to ensure the survival of the family through the up bringing of next generation to continue the family name and inertly teach the offspring the values of respect and loyalty. This has and always will be the case.
Back in the early decades of this century they used to teach this through their mourning of lost ones and by hiding behind black veils. This used to instill there children with the need to avenge the wrong doings. Women were apart of the family, they subconsciously played their parts. The difference today is that with the improved policing systems and networks, more and more mafia gang lords are being caught and imprisoned. This can't seal the end for the families so naturally the women have had to step up to fill the voids.
That linked with the fact that mafia groups are always opening up into new avenues of business means that positions are becoming available and in some cases in today's world these positions are better filled by women. So in answering the question of women's roles within the mafia it can be said that they are there to provide unconditional support to the family and to ensure the future of that family. This role has in fact remained the same; however, the way in which the women have carried it out has actually changed dramatically, particularly over the last couple of decades.
Longrigg, Clare. Mafia Women. Chatto & Windus, London 1997
Siebert, Renate. Secrets of the life and death: women and the mafia. Verso, London 1994
Hess, Henner. Mafia and Mafiosi: origin, power and myth. D.C. Heath, Farnborough 1973
Balsamo, William. The mafia: the first hundred years. W.H. Allen, London 1988
www.news.bbc.co.uk/i/hi/programmes/correspondant.stm "women enter mafia wars" 4th February 2004
www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/o,13005,901020610.html "meet the modern mob" 4th February 2004