Lizzie Borden: Ax Her No Questions, She’ll Chop You No Suey
A belated happy birthday to Lizzie Borden (1860-1927), born on July 19th. As usual,
I’m a day late and a head short.
Lizzie was tried for killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet. She was acquitted. Here’s the final:
This is part of my ongoing “birthday clock” caricature series. Lizzie’s blood splatter clock shows some of the main points of the case:
Her father was struck 11 times, possibly 12. (Her stepmother was struck 18 or 19 times.) The murders took place in Fall River, Massachusetts, on August 4, 1892. Lizzie claimed she was in the barn behind the house, eating pears in the hayloft, at the time of the murders. Lizzie burned a dress in the kitchen stove a few days after the murders. She claimed she had brushed up against some fresh paint. Lizzie was indicted and tried for the murders, but acquited. I mean, acquitted. The jury only took an hour and a half to reach its verdict.
Andrew Borden was a furniture maker. He was well-off financially, thrifty by nature. Some would say stingy. (His house lacked many of the modern conveniences enjoyed by his neighbors.)
Borden was widowed in 1863. He married Abby Durfee Gray in 1865. Some accounts say Lizzie disliked her stepmother, other accounts dispute this. It seems likely the truth has become distorted over the years, colored by the murders and subsequent speculation.
Below: Andrew Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother Abby Borden, and the Borden House as it looked at the time of the murders in 1892. (Today, it’s a bed & breakfast, complete with museum and Gift Shop Of Horrors.)
I found the following photo on Tattered Fabric, a blog devoted to All Things Lizzie. According to the post, the photo was taken by a guest at the Lizzie Borden B & B.
That’s Lizzie Borden’s actual “footstone.” The entire Borden Family is buried together in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, MA. Lizzie began calling herself Lizbeth later in life. According to Lizzie Borden: Warps & Wefts, another Lizzie blog, the doll itself was purchased on eBay by a “Lizziana” collector.
The Lizzie Borden Case confirms a sad truth we all know and fear: once you’re accused of a lurid crime and become a cause célèbre, it doesn’t matter whether you’re guilty or innocent. You will be convicted by the press and the court of public opinion. Your life will never be the same.
The Chad Mitchell Trio was one of the very best folk groups of the early 60s. They never received the acclaim they deserved. Lizzie Borden was one of their funniest songs. I’ll leave you with this YouTube clip which features their live recording, along with some very droll homemade visuals.
What do you think? Were you familiar with Lizzie Borden? Ever used that old “I was eating pears at the time” excuse? Is getting caricatured by Mark Armstrong the unkindest cut of all?? Hope you’ll leave a comment.
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