Lizzie Borden – Ridiculed but Free

Lizzie Borden

Whether or not Lizzie Borden indeed hacked her parents to death, her acquittal enabled her to live as a freewoman, despite being ostracized by the townsfolk of Fall River, Massachusetts – the place of the murder.

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

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden’s bodies were found in their home, impeccably described – “hacked almost beyond recognition”. Lizzie, the youngest Borden offspring was first to sound the alert – crying out to the maid, “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead. Somebody came in and killed him.” Moments later, the same maid found Abby Borden’s body slumped on the guest bedroom upstairs.

Andrew Borden's body

Andrew Borden’s body

Abby Borden's body

Abby Borden’s body

The Bordens received 29 or 30 whacks all in all, not the 81 as suggested by the poem. The husband got 10 or 11, and the wife got 19. The hatchet was found on the basement – blood-free with the handle missing. Days later, Lizzie Borden was arrested.

Prominent Trial Points

  • Lizzie allegedly bought prussic acid (a cleaning agent) a day before the murder.
  • The hatchet found on the basement, which was free of blood. Prosecutors speculated that the handle was removed because of the blood.
  • Lizzie’s burnt dress in the stove – a suggestion that the dress might have been a bloody clothing, but was reasoned out that it was destroyed because of paint stain.
  • Lizzie fainted upon the sight of her parents’ skull when it was used as trial evidence.
Andrew Borden's skull

Andrew Borden’s skull

The blood-free hatchet

The blood-free hatchet


After an hour and a half of deliberation, Lizzie Borden was acquitted.

Though acquitted, the speculations regarding the Borden murders still continued and some theories arose due to the lack of a charged murderer. Below are some suspects though presented as “theories”.

  • Andrew Borden’s illegitimate son, “William Borden”, after failing to extort money from his father.
  • Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan, the maid who first saw the bodies, angered that she was forced to clean on a really hot day, and while recovering from an illness.
  • Emma Borden, Lizzie’s older sister, due to an alibi that she was in Connecticut at the time of the murder.
  • Lizzie Borden herself, though one writer proposed that she was in a “fugue state” while committing the crime.
The Borden house

The Borden house

After the trial, Lizzie and Emma moved to another home. She insisted on living in Fall River, despite ostracized by the people of the town. She changed her name to Lizbeth A. Borden and died a freewoman on June 1, 1927.


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