Female Gangs in America

Female Gangs have long been overlooked in the gang literature. While the gang has been long seen as a fundamentally male phenomena, the existence of female peer groups has not received careful scrutiny.

Recently, more attention has been paid to female gangs. An edited volume (seen at right) collexcts some of the most important historical and contemporary scholarship on female gangs. The essays introducing each section, written by Meda Chesney-Lind and John Hagedorn, are reprinted here in pdf format.

Female Gangs in America: Essays on Girls, Gangs, and Gender Edited by Meda Chesney-Lind and John M. Hagedorn.

The first and only edited volume on female gangs. Doesn't that speak volumes? Check out Chesney-Lind's and Hagedorn's essays before each section.

Chicago. Lakeview Press. 1999.

PDF format Introductions from

Female Gangs in America:


From "Why this Book" (pages 4-5)

"This volume devotes considerable attention to gang girls' violence, not simply their victimization. The various chapters explore female fighting and violence as one way gang girls "do gender," but none of the more recent auithors sees female violence as simply girls "acting male." In general, many of the selections included in this volume explore how radcism and patriarchal privilidge shape (or distort) girls' lives and their choices. They disaggregate the gang experience, showing how girls and boys live both together and apart in marginalized communities. There is evidence from several studies that, on the whole, girls come from more troubled families than boys. The female gang acts as a kind of a refuge for many girls, while for most boys the male gang is an extension of a mainstream, aggressive, male role."



Another important contribution is the review of the female gang literature by Joan Moore and John Hagedorn, published by OJJDP (the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention). This essay was controversial within OJJDP and held up for more than two years. Its methodological criticism, muted in the published version, argued that official collection of data did not give us accurate measures of female gang involvement and that non-law enforcement, field research techniques were needed. This essay, combined with Female Gangs in America, provides the best and most comprehensive overview of female gangs in existence.

Romans celebrated their good fortune in appropriating women to populate Rome. The Sabine women may have had something else to say about it, but their voices have been silenced. So have the voices of female gangs.

The Rape of the Sabines by Giovanni da Bologna (1524-1608) currently stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy.

As with other sections of gangrearch.net, articles and data from John Hagedorn's Milwaukee research is made available. In this case, tables and data from Hagedorn's Homegirl Study are dispalyed. The Final Report of the Homeboy and Homegirl Studies are also available.

In pdf format there is also Hagedorn's article exploring the nature of masculinity within male gangs, "Frat Boys, Bossmen, Studs, and Gentlemen: A Typology of Gang Masculinities" f rom: Masculinities and Violence edited by L.H. Bowker.

The Chicago Crime Commission has published one of the most lurid and sensationalist distortions of the nature of female gangs in print. A few pages of their report is printed here in pdf format as is Hagedorn's polemical response: Girl Gangs: Are Girls Getting More Violent?

Perhaps the best overall treatment of girls in gangs within the context of a community is by Joan Moore in her 1991 Temple University book: Going Down to the Barrio: Homeboys and Homegirls in Change. Moore treats the life of boys and girls, men and women within a community and gendered context that is unique in the literature.

Selected Books and Articles on Female Gangs

The Girls in the Gang by Anne Campbell

Still the best single study of girls in the gang.

1984 . Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publisher Ltd.

"Female Participation in Gangs." by Anne Campbell In Gangs In America, edited by Ron C. Huff.

An early and very good summary of the female gang literature.

1990 Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

"Gender Differences in Gang Participation, Delinquency, and Substance Use" by Beth Bjerregaard and Carolyn Smith.In The Modern Gang Reader, edited by Malcolm W. Klein, Cheryl L. Maxson and Jody Miller

One of the few articles to find little differences between male and female gangs. Uses a school sample.

1995. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Girls, Gangs, Women, and Drugs by Carl S. Taylor

Interviews with female gang members. The history of female gangs in this volume is brilliant, and reprinted in Female Gangs in America.

1993 East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Rebels in the Streets: The Story of New York's Girl Gangs by Kitty Hanson

A journalistic account of New York girl gangs in the early sixties. Not much here, except the author's descriptions of the girls, and how much they differ. Social scientists could learn from Hanson's writing.

1964 Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prntice-Hall.

Homegirls: Characterizing Chicana Gangs by John C. Quicker

An early and sympathetic view of female gangs. Hard to find. See Quicker's article in Female Gangs in America.

1983. San Pedro, CA: International University Press.

The Hall of Shame

8 Ball Chicks by Gini Sikes

Sensationalistic journalism at its worst.

1997 New York: Doubleday.

Dead End Kids: Gang Girls and the Boys They know by Mark S. Fleisher

Not a book about female gangs, despite the title. Questionable research methods and bad theory.

1998 . Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin.