Who was Lizzie Borden?
Lizzie Borden was an American woman who was acquitted of the murders of her father and stepmother after being the main suspect in the August 4, 1892 axe murders, one of the most mysterious murder cases in American history. Several years after her acquittal, the case of Lizzie Borden continues to intrigue researchers and historians. A spinster, Lizzie allegedly had a ‘sour’ relationship with her step-mother and feared that she would not be given her share of inheritance of her father’s property. She was the only suspect in the case and the jury believed that she had reasonable motive for the murder. The case garnered widespread controversy and public debates as women murderers were unheard of at that time. Lizzie became a media sensation and the brutality of the murders shocked the community in Fall River. Even after the jury declared Lizzie innocent, she was treated as an outcast and her neighbors often passed denigrating remarks about her. The house where the murder took place is now converted into a museum and operates a bed and breakfast with 1890s styling. Many decades after the murder, guests throng in large numbers to get a taste of the same breakfast menu that the Bordens ate on the day of the murder! This unsolved case and its long dead suspect continue to interest people all over the world.
Childhood & Early Life
Lizzie Andrew Borden was born on July 19, 1860, in Fall River, Massachusetts, USA, to Andrew Jackson Borden, a wealthy and successful property developer, and Sarah Borden, who died after Lizzie’s birth.
Three years after her mother’s death, Andrew Jackson Borden married Abby Durfee Gray. The family lived together along with her elder sister Emma at their bungalow in Fall River.
Lizzie and her sister Emma had an orthodox and religious upbringing and she regularly attended the ‘Central Congregational Church.’ As a young woman, she taught at Sunday school and involved herself in church activities.
She was actively involved in Christian organisations like the ‘Christian Endeavour Society’ and ‘Women’s Christian Temperance Union.’
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Offences & Incarceration
On August 4, 1892, the day of the murder, her father had breakfast with his wife and left for his usual routine. As usual, she and her sister did not eat breakfast with their father and stepmother.
She ordered her maid to clean the windows on the ground floor after which the maid went to the third floor to rest for a while. Meanwhile, Lizzie went to her step-mother’s bedroom and allegedly killed her with a hatchet.
Her father returned home at 10.45 a.m. While he was taking a nap on the couch in the downstairs sitting room, she approached him and allegedly struck him 11 times with a hatchet.
On August 11, 1892, she was arrested on the grounds of murder and was tried in front of a grand jury, which heard the case from November 7 to December 2.
She was tried in June 1893 in New Bedford and the prosecution attorney for the case was Supreme Court Justice William H. Moody.
The parties defending the case were Andrew V. Jennings, Melvin O. Adams, and former Massachusetts governor George D. Robinson.
On June 20, 1893, the jury declared that she was not found guilty of the crime and therefore acquitted her.
No one else was charged for the murders; her Sister Emma was not in town on the day of the murder.
Some sources claimed that Bridget Sullivan, the maid on duty that day, was angry as she was ordered to clean the windows on a hot summer day, and murdered the couple.
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In 1897, Lizzie was accused of shoplifting in Providence, Rhode Island. This incident damaged her reputation further in the society.
Claim to Fame
On the morning of August 4, 1892, she allegedly murdered her father and step-mother by repeatedly striking them with a hatchet at their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. She was arrested and tried for the murders and was declared not guilty.
Personal Life & Legacy
She did not share a close relationship with her step-mother and often refused to eat with the family. She suspected that her step-mother’s family wanted to gain access to her father’s wealth.
She and her sister did not address her step-mother as ‘mother’ but rather referred to her as ‘Mrs. Borden.’
After she was declared innocent by the jury, she moved to a luxurious house called ‘Maplecroft’ in the elite neighborhood of the ‘Hill’ in Fall River along with her sister Emma.
She lived a luxurious life with live-in-maids, housekeepers, coachmen, and cooks to tend to her and her sister.
Her elder sister Emma was fiercely protective of her and together they managed the rental properties of their father.
It is said that she was romantically involved with actress Nance O Neil.
She fell seriously ill a year before her death and had her gall bladder removed. She died of pneumonia on June 1, 1927, at the age of 66, at her home in Fall River.
In 1975, a television movie based on the life of Lizzie Borden premiered on ABC network.
In 2012, a horror film titled ‘Lizzie’ was directed by David Dunn Jr. The movie was an adaptation of the popular Lizzie Borden murder case.
The ‘Andrew Borden House’ has been restored to ‘Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast’ where guests can stay overnight, take a tour, and enjoy the same kind of breakfast that the Bordens ate on the day of the murder.
This infamous murder suspect was mentally ill. Some even claim that she was possessed by spirits when she allegedly murdered her parents.