So, goes the old verse that immortalized Lizzie Borden as one of history's most notorious murderers, fair or not. For most people, that ends the story. Some also probably know that she won acquittal on all charges, thus becoming in many minds the O.J. Simpson of her time. Indeed, just as the Simpson case involved issues other than murder (such as race), Borden's story provides revealing details about the lives of women in 19th century America. This paper will examine the status of women in America during the previous century by analyzing the life and trial of the infamous Lizzie Borden.
Lizzie Borden entered the American consciousness on August 4, 1892, when police in Fall River, Massachusetts responded to the report of a murder at the Borden house. At 11:10 A.M., Lizzie Borden found her father hacked to death (with a hatchet, it turned out, not an axe) in the downstairs sitting room. A neighbor soon found Abby Borden, Lizzie's stepmother, hacked to death upstairs. Andrew Borden had returned home at 10:55, so his murder must have occurred between then and 11:10. Abby Borden had last been seen alive around 9 A.M., and based on her stomach contents, the medical examiner estimated her time of death at approximately 9:30 (Brown, 1991, pp. 79-82).
The police immediately suspected Lizzie because she and the maid, Bridget Sullivan, were the only ones on the property at the time of the murders, and because of her reaction when a po1ice officer referred to Abby as her mother (Lizzie snapped back, "She is not my mother, sir. She is my stepmother. My mother died when I was a child") (Kent, 1992, p. 21) .The police, under pressure, arrested Lizzie within a week and charged her with the murders of Andrew and Abby individually, and the murders of them together. The latter charge defies explanation, so odd that even the trial court could not comprehend the state's reasoning (Brown, 1991, p. 277).
A preliminary hearing followed, th...