Male Mobsters? Fuhgeddaboudit. Mafia Godmothers Control Naples Crime Ring

Cristen Conger

Ever wondered what would've happened in "The Godfather" if Michael's sister Connie had paid actually pulled her weight in mafia matters? Maria Licciardi might have an idea. She's one of the most powerful figures in the Camorra family, essentially the Corleone equivalent in Naples. In fact, she's considered a godmother. Previously on Italy's 30 Most-Wanted list, Licciardi was arrested in 2001 after being on the lam for a few years, and because of the powerful status, she's held in Italy's most isolated prisons.

A Naples prosecutor told the Associated Press, "Signora Licciardi is a true 'madrina' (godmother), absolutely. She was the sister of a boss, and she sat at the table with other bosses, she made decisions with them, she was right at their level."

As the Naples police force has tried to shut down the mafia rings and tossed a number of male mafia members in jail in the process, women in the families are stepping up to the plate in their absence, per tradition. According to custom, a man's business will be passed along to a female relative -- a wife, widow, sister or even cousin -- before moving to an unrelated male. And judging by the women in the Camorra clans, they have no problem stepping into the men's shoes.

From the AP: "In one of the most lurid episodes, in 2002, two carloads of women from rival Camorra clans lurched through the streets of Lauro, a town near Naples, first trading insults, and then machine-gun fire and pistol shots until two grandmothers and a 16-year-old girl were dead."

This ascension of women might just reflect regional custom in Naples, however. Connie Corleone in "The Godfather" probably wouldn't ever be permitted to take the reins because the family is Sicilian. There, mafia families are more gender-restrictive, which one Italian historian has even described as a "glass ceiling."

And you know who's gonna bust through that glass ceiling with a fist full of cannolis and uncover the truth about the role of women in the mafia? Molly and me. Legally. On an upcoming episode of Stuff Mom Never Told You.

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