U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Shifting Structure of Chicago's Organized Crime Network and the Women It Left Behind

NCJ Number
Christina M. Smith
Date Published
September 2015
233 pages
Based in a relational theory of gender dynamics, this study examined gender inequality in the social networks of organized crime in Chicago in the first two decades of the twentieth century (1900-1919).

The featured topic in this study is how gender inequality in the social networks of organized crime in Chicago intensified under the expanded criminal opportunities that emerged with the coming of Prohibition in 1920, which made it a crime to manufacture, sell, and transport intoxicating beverages. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Chicago organized crime revolved around the illicit entertainment economies of sex work and gambling, along with their legal protection and political corruption. Women were involved as sex workers, brothel managers/owners and gamblers, and they participated in a loosely connected social network with men who were police officers, gamblers, politicians, husbands, graft collectors, and bosses. Women participated with men in a small, decentralized network involved in illegal activities associated with sex work and gambling. When Prohibition ushered in new, illegal, and lucrative criminal activities, organized crime increased in size, strength, profits, and influence. The network became more centralized. Non-elite male participants forged business relationships with other more powerful men in the network. Women, on the other hand, had diminished roles in the actual operation of the centralized criminal network, making them social accessories rather than important ;players in generating criminal proceeds. The empirical foundation for this study consisted of archival documents, which were used to create a relational database with information on 3,321 individuals and their 15,861 social relationships. The author considers this study to be a unique measure of gender inequality in social networks and a relational theory of gender dynamics applicable to future research on organizations, criminal or otherwise. 15 figures, 9 tables, and approximately 130 bibliographic listings