Who Was Lizzie Borden?
On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found murdered in their home. Daughter Lizzie Borden was arrested and tried for the ax murders. She was acquitted in 1893 and continued to live in Fall River until her death, on June 1, 1927. The case was never solved.
Lizzie Andrew Borden was born on July 19, 1860, in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Sarah and Andrew Borden. Soon thereafter, Sarah died. Andrew remarried three years later, to Abby Durfee Gray. The family lived well. Andrew was successful enough in the fields of manufacturing and real estate development to support his wife and two daughters, Emma and Lizzie, and employ servants to keep their home in order. Both Emma and Lizzie lived with their father and stepmother into adulthood.
The relationship between the Borden sisters and their stepmother, Abby, was not close. They greeted her as "Mrs. Borden" and worried that Abby's family sought to gain access to their father's money. Emma was protective of her younger sister and, together, the two sisters helped to manage the rental properties owned by Andrew. The family attended the Congregationalist Church, an institution in which Lizzie was particularly involved.
Borden Murders and Trial
On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby were murdered and mutilated in their Fall River home. Lizzie alerted the maid, Bridget, to her father's dead body. He had been attacked and killed while sleeping on the sofa. A search of the home led to the discovery of the body of Abby Borden in an upstairs bedroom. Like her husband, Abby was the victim of a brutal hatchet attack.
Policemen called to the scene suspected Lizzie immediately, although she was not taken into custody at that time. Her sister was out of town at the time and was never a suspect. During the week between the murders and her arrest, Lizzie burned a dress that she claimed was stained with paint. Prosecutors would later allege that the dress was stained with blood and that Lizzie had burned the dress in order to cover up her crime.
Lizzie was indicted on December 2, 1892. Her widely publicized trial began the following June in New Bedford. Lizzie did not take the stand in her own defense and her inquest testimony was not admitted into evidence. The testimony provided by others proved inconclusive. On June 20, 1893, Lizzie was acquitted of the murders. No one else was ever charged with the crimes.
Later Life and Death
Lizzie and Emma inherited a significant portion of their father's estate, which allowed them to purchase a new home together. The Borden sisters lived together for the following decade. Although free, Lizzie was considered guilty by many of her neighbors, and thusly never enjoyed acceptance in the community following her trial. Her reputation was further tarnished when she was accused of shoplifting in 1897.
In 1905, Emma abruptly moved out of the house that she shared with her sister. The two never spoke again. Emma may have been uncomfortable with Lizzie's close friendship with another woman, Nance O'Neil, although her silence on the issue has fueled speculation that she learned new details about the murders of her father and stepmother. No member of the household staff ever offered additional information on the rift, even following Lizzie's death.
Lizzie died of pneumonia in Fall River, Massachusetts, on June 1, 1927. Emma Borden died days later in Newmarket, New Hampshire.
Lizzie's life and trial have been depicted in several movies: The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), Lizzie Borden Took an Ax (2014) and Lizzie (2018).
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