Women of Honour
Madonnas, Godmothers and Informers in the Italian Mafia
Translated by James Ferguson
A frank and unsettling account of the conflicted role of women in Italy’s mafias — first-hand stories of submission, complicity and revolt.
The role of women in the Italian mafias has long been overlooked. So who are they? Pure and virtuous Madonnas or dangerous Godmothers?
Reduced to victim status and relegated to domestic life, women serve as the mafia’s respectable facade: virtuous and docile. But, as Milka Kahn and Anne Véron reveal in this absorbing book, women have always been at the heart of Italy’s criminal organisations. While the men are behind bars or on the run, it is left to their wives and mothers to uphold and pass on the ‘family values’. Once widowed, some push their sons to vendetta; others become mafia chiefs in their own right. Yet many also decide to risk their lives, collaborating with the authorities and renouncing mafia society in search of normality.
Through first-hand accounts of submission, complicity and revolt, Women of Honour paints a complex and fascinating portrait of the women in Italy’s mafias who have overcome a culture of silence to share their extraordinary stories.
Table of contents
WOMEN IN COSA NOSTRA
- Ninetta Bagarella: Wife of the ‘Butcher of Corleone’
- Rita Atria: The Young Rebel
- Giusy Vitale: The First ‘Godmother’ of Cosa Nostra
- Carmela Iuculano: For the Love of Her Children
WOMEN IN THE ’NDRANGHETA
- Giusy Pesce: Wind of Revolt
- Lea Garofalo: The Price of Treason
- The Land of Suicides
WOMEN IN THE CAMORRA
- Pupetta Maresca: Insulted Honour
- Erminia Giuliano: ‘Lady Camorra’
- Maria Licciardi: ‘The Godmother’
- Giuseppina Nappa: Faithful to ‘Sandokan’
- Anna Carrino: The Woman Who Scared the Casalesi Clan
Conclusion: The ‘Pseudo-Emancipation’ of Women
‘Kahn and Véron have trawled newspapers and legal documents and interviewed dozens of women to provide vivid stories of tough-minded female bosses, ruling without mercy.’ — Times Literary Supplement
‘These fascinating stories of courage, collaboration and criminal mastery offer new insight into the changing role of women in mafia culture.’ — Clare Longrigg, author of Mafia Women
‘Engrossing. Kahn and Véron take us into a world in which women play an important role but in which — with few exceptions — their identities, their private lives and sex lives all belong to their menfolk; a world in which rebellion leads inexorably to either life on a witness protection programme, or death.’ — John Hooper, author of The Italians
Anne Véron is a Franco-Italian director and creator of several authoritative documentaries on the Italian mafias.
Milka Kahn is a Franco-Italian jurist specialising in European law. She became familiar with the subject of mafia women through her volunteer work with the anti-mafia organisation Libera Palermo.