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Lizzie Borden, Sensational Victorian Murder, Part II


Front Parlor

Judging from the amount of “views” to my Lizzie Borden blog post a couple years back, people are relatively interested in her story. So I thought I’d add just a few more facts in case people want more info.Here’s one thing that jumped out at me—Lizzie’s biological mother, who died when Lizzie was 2, was prone to fits of unexplained rage and suffered from migraines.  Of course at this period of time (1845) we knew very little about psychology.  Freud, the father of psychology, wasn’t even born yet.  That being the case, we can’t really know what caused these symptoms, whether it was physical or psychological.  If it was physical, such as a brain tumor, that would explain the migraines, the temper and Sarah’s death.  In that case, there’d be no link to Lizzie, as there’s no indication that she suffered from migraines. 


the sitting room, where Mr. Borden died--a view from the sofa

 One thing we do know is that earlier in the summer of 1892 (the murders occurred in August) Andrew reported that his house was robbed.  Lizzie, her sister, Emma, and their maid were home at the time.  Andrew reported that the thief must have slipped past them up to Abby Borden’s bedroom, stole some jewelry and about 40 dollars.  It occurred in broad daylight, without anyone having seen the thief.  A short time later, Andrew asked the police to drop the investigation, and the case was never solved.    


Dining room--Bridget had just cleaned these windows before the murder of Andrew. It's believed that Abby was already dead.


 What do you think?  Mental illness? Building rage due to a terribly dysfunctional family?  Or was there another culprit and Lizzie is actually innocent, though suspected because of her odd behavior? 

Info from Lizzie Borden: A case book of family and crime in the 1890’s, Joyce G. Williams, J. Eric Smithburn, M.Jeanne Peterson

and from a tour of the property:

 Did he suspect Lizzie of the theft?  Did Lizzie actually steal the money and items?  Or was there a thief, who possibly came back later and killed Abby and Andrew Borden? Questions, questions, questions.  If only we had a time machine and could send a couple good detectives and a crime scene investigation team back.  Lacking that, all we can do is speculate.  Which is sort of fun in itself. 

 If, however, it was a psychological illness that had some genetic component, Lizzie may have inherited it, which may have contributed to the death of Andrew and Abby Borden, (assuming Lizzie did kill them—legally, she did not).  Certainly the woman was an odd duck.  She had a penchant for staring in such a way as to make people uncomfortable.  Those who knew her believed it was an attempt to establish control.  She was also known for petty thefts, although never charged.  Storekeepers and the like would merely go to Andrew, who would pay for whatever trinket Lizzie took. A sign of mental illness, or just a way for Lizzie to get what she wanted when the $4 a week allowance her father gave her didn’t cover it?



  1. Belinda says:

    Wow, who knew. But, hey I was robbed I only got $5.00 a week during the 1970’s so what did she have to complain about, that bought my school lunches for the week and gave me $2.50 left to spend however I wanted.

  2. Denise Eagan says:

    And of course 4 dollars back then would be worth a great deal more than in the 1970s. On the other hand her father was very wealthy, and Lizzie was 32 at the time. There was a lot of tension in the family over money.

  3. This is a well-timed post, given the continuing news coverage relating to the Tucson tragedy of a few days ago.
    I, personally, have always thought Lizzie was the murderer. Learning she was “known for petty thefts” was damning in itself. Finding out her mother was mentally ill, convinces me of it.

  4. I don’t know what it is but this story has always intrigued me as well. Maybe she pulled off the perfect murder!

  5. Denise Eagan says:

    Me too Marlene. Like Mary Ann, I’ve always thought Lizzie was guilty. But I’m starting to think that in the interest of fairness, I should gather together some of the information that exonerated her and do a post on that at some point.

  6. Seems like a mystery that will never be solved. I think that’s why it’s intrigued people for so long.

  7. Nice articles here but unfortunately too many errors of fact. First of all, the murder instrument was a hatchet, not an axe.

    A monumental work is about to be released by the Fall River Historical Society: Parallel Lives, Lizzie Borden’s Fall River. It will be the be all, tell all about the times she lived in and allow us to finally see her as a flesh and blood woman stripped of the one dimensional persona perpetrated by an inaccurate quatrain. I refer your readers to my blog for a boatload of information on this case, the Borden family, her relatives in Swansea, etc. etc. You can also read the entire Preliminary Hearing for free at my blog as well as the Wills of Lizzie and Emma, etc.

    Thanks again for the nice write ups.

    Faye Musselman
    Payson, AZ

  8. Caroline Clemmons says:

    Denise, great post. I always thought Lizzie was framed. No one will ever know, of course.

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