Borden, Lizzie

(redirected from Lizzie Borden)
Also found in: Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Borden, Lizzie

The trial of Lizzie Borden shows the effect that public opinion can have on the life of an accused person, regardless of the outcome of a fair trial.

Lizzie Borden was born July 19, 1860. She was a plain, outspoken woman who lived with her father, stepmother, and sister in a house on Second Street in Fall River, a small industrial city located in southeastern Massachusetts.

According to local rumors, the Borden family was not noted for its harmonious relationships. Andrew Borden was a quiet, unpleasant man who had two daughters, Lizzie and Emma, by a previous marriage, and who had married his present wife in 1865. Neither Lizzie nor Emma favored the union and animosity existed among the three Borden women.

On August 4, 1892, the residents of Fall River were shocked and frightened by the brutal ax murders of Andrew Borden and his wife. The killings were committed at the Borden home in daylight. Emma Borden was out of town, but Lizzie discovered her father's body on the couch in the living room; she immediately sent a servant, Bridget, for help. Upon their return, Bridget and a neighbor found the body of Lizzie's stepmother in an upstairs bedroom.

The town was in an uproar and the newspapers seized the opportunity to sensationalize an already lurid story. Lizzie became the prime suspect, and throughout Fall River, speculation spread about her actions on that fatal day, suggesting that Lizzie attacked her stepmother and afterward carefully cleaned the ax and changed her clothes. She then did her normal housework until her father returned from town to take a nap on the couch. While he slept, Lizzie killed him, and again cleaned the ax and her clothing. Chemical tests did not provide any substantial evidence because the alleged murder weapon, the ax, was cleaned so thoroughly.

The story of the murders was embellished with continued fragmented reports of Lizzie's behavior. One source claimed that Lizzie was devoid of any emotion when the corpses were found; another witnessed Lizzie in the act of burning a dress shortly after the murders were committed; still another stated that the suspect had attempted to purchase poison as recently as one day before the killings. The condemning public showed Lizzie no mercy, and some unknown rhymer composed a grotesque verse relating the events. The still familiar rhyme reads as follows:

Lizzie Borden took an ax

And gave her mother forty whacks;

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father forty-one.

An inquest was held five days after the discovery of the murders, and Lizzie was subsequently arrested. The trial began in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in June 1893, and lasted thirteen days. Those days were filled with contradictory accounts of the crime, but the main point of contention concerned Lizzie's assertion that she was in the barn at the time the murders were committed, between 11:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. An ice cream vendor corroborated Lizzie's story by testifying that he had seen the defendant leaving the barn at the aforementioned time. The defense attorney argued brilliantly on his client's behalf—the evidence was mostly circumstantial—and the jury found Lizzie Borden not guilty of the murder of her parents.

Lizzie Borden was acquitted by the jury but not by the public. After her death on June 1, 1927, in Fall River, she was still not exonerated in the public mind; she is famous only in connection with the bloody events of August 4, 1892.

Further readings

Hoffman, Paul Dennis. 2000. Yesterday in Old Fall River: A Lizzie Borden Companion. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press.

Masterton, William L. 2000. Lizzie Didn't Do It! Boston: Branden.

Ortiz, Catalina. 1997. "Defense Has the Edge: New Trial, Same Verdict: Lizzie Borden 'No Murderer.'" Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 143 (September 17).

Robertson, Cara W. 1996. "Representing "Miss Lizzie": Cultural Convictions in the Trial of Lizzie Borden." Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities 8 (summer): 351–416.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Robertson's account in "The Trial of Lizzie Borden" sifts through the evidence from a lawyer's perspective.
That was my reaction when someone suggested an article about Sevigny, whose latest film, 'Lizzie,' a lesbian-tinged take on Lizzie Borden and the infamous axe murders, arrives in UAE theatres on March 14.
Caption: The Softer Side of Lizzie Borden: Chloe Sevigny (right) and Kristen Stewart are lovers in Lizzie.
Holmes' Murder Castle, Lizzie Borden's home, Frankenstein's lab, a torture dungeon and a Victorian insane asylum.
Fiction | Lizzie Borden | Physical & Mental Abuse | Mental Health Issues
The lesbian films seem just as bleak: Kristen Stewart and Chloe Sevigny share more than just lustful glances in Craig William Macneill's 'Lizzie' (about the infamous ax-wielding Lizzie Borden), while the two Rachels (Weisz and McAdams) find themselves sexually attracted to each other in Sebastian Lelio's 'Disobedience.'
Synopsis: "The Murderer's Maid" by Erika Mailman deftly interweaves the stories of two women: one, the servant of infamous Lizzie Borden, and the other a modern-day barista fleeing from an attempt on her life.
Heck, even Lizzie Borden tells her story in a fantastic rock musical.
It's a terribly hot morning in August 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts, and a distraught Lizzie Borden yells, in the book's opening lines, "Someone's killed Father." With an axe, of course - and, in the coming pages, it turns out that someone's killed Stepmother, too.
About the book: This fictional retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders is a domestic nightmare, unfolding through multiple perspectives to reveal a claustrophobic household laden with dread.
Sam Sheppard); and "worm in the bud" trials that expose a sleazy underside of respectable society (Lizzie Borden or the Loeb-Leopold case).
Lizzie Borden, accused of hacking to death her father and stepmother in 1892, is the inspiration for this gruesome reimagining of the crime.