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SSHA Seminar Series: Syndicate Women, the Criminal Elite and the Shifting Structure of Chicago’s Organized Crime Network

October 25, 2018 - 1:30pm to 4:00pm

This research uncovers a unique historical puzzle: Women composed a substantial part of Chicago organized crime in the early 1900s before Prohibition, but during Prohibition, when criminal opportunities increased for men and women, women were mostly excluded from organized crime.

Conventional theories of gender and crime are limited in explaining such a rapid shift in this particular criminal organization’s gender composition. This project solves this puzzle by interrogating broader relational and market theories, historical data, and criminal networks.

Women’s entrepreneurial spirit and economic need did not change in this 20-year period, but rather the structural barriers of access and prosperity developed in ways that were compounded by status, preferences, organizational restructuring, and, as a consequence, gender.

Chris Smith is an assistant professor of sociology at UC Davis. Smith’s research on crime and inequality, criminal relationships and criminal organizations studies the ways in which relationships unequally embed individuals in criminal markets and violence situations.

Smith is the author of the forthcoming book "Syndicate Women: Gender and Networks in Chicago Organized Crime" published by the University of California Press.

For further information please contact Jeff Fuller at the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts at 209 228-3125 or


Classroom and Office Building 2, 290

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School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts