(July 19, 1860-June 1, 1927)
It is best described by the closing arguments for Lizzie Borden's defense, made by her attorney, George D. Robinson:
The Lizzie Borden case has mystified and fascinated those interested in crime forover on hundred years. Very few cases in American history have attracted as much attention as the hatchet murders of Andrew J. Borden and his wife, Abby Borden. The bloodiness of the acts in an otherwise respectable late nineteenth century domestic setting is startling. Along with the gruesome nature of the crimes is the unexpected character of the accused, not a hatchet-wielding maniac, but a church-going, Sunday-school-teaching, respectable, spinster-
daughter, charged with parricide, the murder of parents, a crime worthy of Classical Greek tragedy. This is a murder case in which the accused is found not guilty for the violent and bloody murders of two people. There were the unusual circumstances considering that it was an era of swift justice, of vast newspaper coverage, evidence that was almost entirely circumstantial, passionately divided public opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused, incompetent prosecution, and acquittal.
Not much is described of Lizzie Andrew Borden's childhood. On March 1, 1851, Emma Lenora Borden was born to Andrew and Sarah Borden, and on July 19, 1860, Lizzie had arrived. While Lizzie was at the young age of two, Sarah died of uterine congestion. In 1865, Andrew Borden wed Abby Durfee-a short, shy, obese woman who had been a spinster until the age of 36. Abby's family were not as well off as the Bordens.
Lizzie suffered from psychomotor epilepsy, a strange seizure of the temporal lobe that has one distinct symptom: a "black-out" in which the patients carry out their actions in a dream state, aware of every action without knowing what they are doing. Lizzie Borden seemed to have two entirely different personalities: the good daughter (a member of the Congressional Church, and a brilliant (conversationalist), and the bad daughter (deeply resentful of the patriarchy). These two personalities could be explained by the families' contradiction about their social statuses. She also had a habit of stealing from the local merchants.
The Borden family of Fall River, Massachusetts, was well known-not only because of Andrew Borden's wealth, but also because of the New England name. Lizzie was the ninth-generation on her father's side to live in Fall River. Andrew held many positions throughout his life, which included president of Union Savings Bank, director of First National Bank, director of Durfee Safe Deposit & Trust Company, director of Globe Yarn Mill Company, director of Troy Cotton & Woolen Manufacturing Company, and director of Merchants Manufacturing Company. They led a modest life in the south part of town near factories and City Hall. Despite this crowded neighborhood and closeness to the police department, none of the neighbors saw anything helpful on the morning of the murders.
What makes the Fall River murders so confusing is that the motive, the weapon, and the opportunity for such a crime are all absent. They found no money or jewelry missing, not even small amounts of change were taken in the daytime break-in at the Borden home a year earlier. The home had been locked up as usual, the maid Bridget Sullivan-an Irish immigrant, 26, that had been working at the household since 1889-was washing windows, and daughter Lizzie was inside the house reading a magazine. Even if both were involved for some reason in this shocking crime, what became of the blood so conspicuously missing from the bludgeoned corpses?
Furthermore, the prosecution never proved the weapon was an axe. When Officer Mullaly asked if there were hatchets in the house, Lizzie replied with, "Yes, they are everywhere." Bridget and Mullaly went down to the basement and found four hatchets:...