Lizzie

[White & Purple] Mask, David Moore, 1971

Yesterday, was the 126th anniversary of Fall River’s most infamous murders, the Borden axe murders. In this case, the daughter Lizzie Borden was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. She was tried, but acquitted by the jury. But in the court of public opinion she was found guilty and immortalized in this little skip-rope ditty:

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

These murders have captured the public’s imagination from their inception to today. The latest iteration is a movie due out next month called Lizzie that stars Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny. Here is its YouTube trailer.

In reading a review of this movie, I also had the opportunity to read a copy of the first Boston Globe article about this case. In this article, which was written the day of the murders, Lizzie is not yet considered a suspect. Suspicion was being directed at some nameless Portuguese man. It’s distressing, to note that from Borden’s time to today people first look for a minority to blame.

Also, in this article is a description of the events in the immediate aftermath of the murders, Lizzie sent Bridget Sullivan the maid to fetch Dr. Bowen. Part of my personal connection with this case, other than being born in Fall River and having a last name of Axe, is that my grandparents lived on Bowen Street. I later met some of the Bordens.

Years ago, we were at the wedding of Peter and Evelyn, high school friends from Ann Arbor. Peter is a Borden. His middle name is Borden. Two of his aunts also attended the wedding. When I learned that they too were from Fall River, I introduced myself to them. I think that my last name was too much for them though. These two elderly women were aghast with me. Even with the intervening years, I don’t think that they were old enough then to be alive at the time of the murders, but they certainly heard about them, much too often and I must have been just one more reminder of events that they would rather forget. 

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