Lizzie Borden, a wealthy New England Sunday School teacher who was charged with using an ax to kill her father and stepmother in 1892, is back in the spotlight nearly 120 years later, thanks to the discovery of her lawyer’s handwritten journals.
Although Borden was acquitted after spending 10 months in prison pending her trial, many believed the 32-year-old literally got away with murder. Much of the evidence in the case remained in the hands of Borden’s attorney, Andrew Jackson Jennings, who stored his two journals in a Victorian bathtub along with other evidence, including the infamous “handless hatchet.”
But the journals have finally come to light. They were left to the Fall River Historical Society by Jennings’ grandson, Edward Saunders Waring, who recently died.
Museum curator Michael Martins suggested that the journals reveal new insight into a caring relationship between Lizzie Borden, her father and her sister.
“Lizzie Borden cared for her father very deeply,” Martins said, as reported in ABC News. “There was a tremendous outpouring of grief in the letters, and that’s a new side to the story.”
Borden’s father, Andrew Borden, became known as an evil man who failed to provide for his daughters. But Martins said the journals portray Andrew Borden differently.
The journals include the voices of a wide variety of characters. “A number of the people Jennings spoke to were people he knew intimately, on a social or business level, so many of them were perhaps more candid with him than they would have been otherwise,” Martins said, as reported by ABC News. “But it’s also evident that there are a number of new individuals he spoke to who had previously not been connected with the case.”
The museum received the journals, each of which are about 100 pages long, about a month ago, but they won’t be exhibited until they are properly preserved, Martins said.
Although Martins has not yet read the journals in their entirety, he said it’s unlikely there will be a “smoking gun” that would prove Lizzie Borden guilty. What is more likely to be found is deeper insight into the personality and life of Lizzie, who despite her acquittal, was deemed by the public to be a brutal ax murderess.
The tainted nursery rhyme of the past lives on: “Lizzie Borden took an Ax, And gave her mother forty whacks, When she had seen what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.” But over a century later, new evidence detailing Lizzie and her father’s caring relationship challenges public opinion.
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