Lizzie Borden (1861 -1927)

On August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden was arrested and thrown into jail for brutally murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. To some she was a demigoddess who should be hanged for her crime. But to many others, especially those in the women’s right groups, she was an innocent “symbol of womanhood” who stood falsely accused.
Her sensational trial lasted 13 days and attracted worldwide publicity. The newspapers rallied behind this frail, soft-spoken woman. Editors wanted to know how anyone could accuse a Sunday school teacher with a spotless reputation of such a heinous crime. You must remember that our country was at the height of the Victorian era, a time when gentleness, physical frailty and meekness of the well-bred American women were cornerstones of society. Women possessed more “natural refinements,” as one editorial put it, “diviner instincts” and stronger “spiritual sensibilities” than did men. The public outcry overlooked the fact that Lizzie Borden stood to inherit a fortune of several thousand dollars.
The judge for the murder trial instructed the jurymen to remember that such “a woman of refinement and gentle training could not have conceived and executed so bloody a butchery.” In the end the jury returned with the only verdict possible under the circumstances –
not guilty.
For years after, crime writers and their publishers made fortunes telling and retelling the story. Was it possible that some unknown person had slipped into the house and slain the elderly parents while Lizzie ate pears upstairs? What happened to the murder weapon? How about the neighbor, Alice Russell, who testified she saw Lizzie burn a blue cotton dress in the kitchen stove after the murder? Guilty or not Lizzie Borden’s once proud name would forever be linked to the gruesome events that happened in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892.
On June 1, 1927, Lizzie died at the age of sixty-six and was buried alongside her stepmother and father in Oak Grove Cemetery. In her final days, she must have heard school children sing this nasty rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.