Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her Father forty- one
One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of all time, right up there next to the Jack the Ripper murders, is the Borden double homicide. On August 4th, 1892, a hot, muggy day in Fall River, a prominent member of the community, Andrew Jackson Borden, and his wife, Abby Durfee Gray Borden, were killed in their home. The lead suspect in these grisly murders was Mr. Borden's youngest daughter by his first wife. Lizzie Borden was portrayed as a cool, calculating woman who killed her father and stepmother for financial gain and because she harbored a well-hidden hatred for the woman chosen to replace a mother she never knew. For over one hundred years, people have speculated as to her guilt or innocence. There have been arguments on both sides of the fence, some citing the fact that Lizziewhich was her christened name, not Elizabethnever cried or showed any emotion over the death of her father, whom she supposedly looked up to, and her stepmother. Others have pointed the finger at Bridget Sullivan, the live-in maid, John Vinnicum Morse, the uncle of Lizzie, and even Emma, Lizzie's quiet, unassuming older sister. Lizzie herself pointed to an unknown assailant who may have broken into the house, hidden in the closet, run upstairs to kill Mrs. Borden, hidden again in the closet, and run out again to kill Mr. Borden as he lay on the couch. However, this seems highly unlikely as there are no bloody footprints to signify an unknown assailant, no indication that anyone had been in the front hall closet, and no possible way that assailant could get past Bridget, who was cleaning the windows on the ground floor that morning. The only possible suspects are Bridget and Lizzie, and it was the latter who had the greatest motive for wanting to see her father and stepmother dead. Today, there are several psychological theories that show the reason why Lizzie would commit such a heinous crime and will be explained in detail later in this essay. The ultimate purpose of this information is to demonstrate how Lizzie, and Lizzie alone, killed her parents in a final act of defiance against parents who caused her mental harm throughout her young life. On the morning of August 4th, 1892, Mr. Borden left the house at 9:30 to go about his daily routine. He was director of one bank, sat on the board of three others and was supervising the construction of the Andrew J. Borden Building, a monument to himself and the wealth he had gained throughout his life. He would return to the house at approximately 10:45 that morning. Meanwhile, his wife, Abby Borden, was going about her dusting. These facts are uncontested and have been reported and confirmed by various witnesses. It is the remainder of the testimony that is in debate. According to Bridget, she was not asked to wash windows until at least 9:30 where Lizzie contests she saw Bridget filling a bucket with water and leaving by the side door at 9:05 (Radin, 1961: 220). At sometime between 9 o'clock that morning and 10:30, Mrs. Borden was killed via 18 whacks with a hatchet to the head in the guest bedroom on the second story (Kent, 1992).
At around 10:45, Mr. Borden returned. Lizzie, who saw her elder father enter the house, helped him to the sofa where he lay down, his legs dangling over the edge of the too-short sofa. At some time between 10:50, when Lizzie left him, and 11:12, when Lizzie found him, he was killed, also with a hatchet to the head (Radin, 1961: 221). Contrary to the popular rhyme, there were only 10 gouges to the head of Mr. Borden (Kent, 1992: xiii).
Born on July 19, 1860, Lizzie Andrew Borden was the third child born to Andrew Jackson Borden and his wife Sarah Anthony Morse Borden (Hoffman, 2000: 38). They had two other daughters, Emma Lenora and Alice Esther, the latter having died at the age of two (Hoffman, 2000: 28). Just before Lizzie turned...
Bibliography: Brown, A.R. (1991). Lizzie Borden: The legend, the truth, the final chapter. Nashville,
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Duggan, L. (2000). Sapphic slashers: Sex, violence, and American Modernity. Durham
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Hoffman, P.D. (2000)/ yesterday in old Fall River: A Lizzie Borden companion. Durham,
NC: Carolina Academic Press
Kent, D. (1992). Forty whacks: New evidence in the life and legend of Lizzie Borden.
Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Yankee Books
Pearson, E. (1937). Trial of Lizzie Borden. New York, NY: Doubleday, Doran &
Radin, E. (1961). Lizzie Borden: The untold story. New York: Simon and Schuster.
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