Lizzie Borden Trial (1893)

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Actually,the Bordens received only 29 whacks, not the 81 suggested by the famous ditty, but the popularity of the above poem is a testament to the public's fascination with the 1893 murder trial of Lizzie Borden. The source of that fascination might lie in the almost unimaginably brutal nature of the crime--given the sex, background, and age of the defendant--or in the jury's acquittal of Lizzie in the face of prosecution evidence that most historians today find compelling.

Background

On a hot August 4, 1892 at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, Bridget ("Maggie") Sullivan, the maid in the Borden family residence rested in her bed after having washed the outside windows. She heard the bell at City Hall ring and looked at her clock: it was eleven o'clock. A cry from Lizzie Borden, the younger of two Borden daughters broke the silence: "Maggie, come down! Come down quick; Father's dead; somebody came in and killed him." A half hour or so later, after the body--"hacked almost beyond recognition"--of Andrew Borden had been covered and the downstairs searched by police for evidence of an intruder, a neighbor who had come to comfort Lizzie, Adelaide Churchill, made a grisly discovery. On the second floor of the Borden home, Churchill found the body of Abby Borden, Lizzie's step-mother. Investigators found Abby's body cold, while Andrew's had been discovered warm, indicating that Abby was killed earlier--probably at least ninety minutes earlier--than her husband....Continued