Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Welcome to this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, here at White Rose of Avalon!  Additionally, today marks my 200th post here at White Rose of Avalon! I would like to thank all my regular readers, and welcome any new readers!  

For this week, I will discuss a truly fatal female, Lizzie Borden.    Lizzie Borden was a 32 year old spinster living with her father, step-mother, and older sister in Fall River, Massachusetts in the summer of 1892.    On August 4, 1892 her father and step-mother were both killed with an axe!    Lizzie would prove to be the main suspect, and would stand trial in 1893 for the killings.

Andrew and Abby Borden’s grisly deaths remain one of the greatest “unsolved” crimes in American history.    Many people believe Lizzie was truly guilty, and got off due to jurors being unable to believe a woman could commit this heinous crime.    Others look to maid Bridget Sullivan (who was the only other person at the house when the murders took place).     Some have even put forth Emma, Lizzie’s older sister, who was out of town at the time of the deaths, as the true killer!    Emma is probably one of the least likely suspects I have read about as being a suspect!   Most people who believe Lizzie was truly innocent either believe her “mystery intruder” claim, or believe their house guest from the previous night had returned to complete the crime.    I have even read theories that Lizzie had a secret boyfriend who killed her father and step-mother in order to be able to be with her!

The truth is we do not yet know for certain who committed the crime.    What we do know is that Abby was murdered first in the guest bedroom.   Andrew was not murdered until nearly an hour later when he came home to nap on the couch in the hall during his lunch hour.     Andrew was discovered first by Lizzie screaming and alerting Bridget to his dead body, asking her to fetch the police.    Only after the police arrived did they discover Abby.    Both crimes were obviously filled with rage, and were unlikely to be committed by a random stranger without some sort of grudge against them.   This led to a natural accusation of Lizzie being the murderer.    She had never gotten along with her step-mother, and she and her father had a sometimes strained relationship.

Some have theorized that Andrew was sexually abusive to Lizzie, and that would certainly explain the motive for killing him and her step-mother!    After all that kind of abuse is nearly impossible to keep from the other parent in a household, which would make Abby guilty by association in Lizzie’s mind!    Finally, there some that believe that Lizzie and Bridget worked together in committing the crimes (in some cases because they were lovers).    The lovers theory was utilized in the most recent film about the crime, Lizzie starring Chloe Sevigny as Lizzie and Kristen Stewart as Bridget. 

Today the crimes are still remembered by the nursery rhyme “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” which I used as the title of this post.    The murder house is now a bed and breakfast, which has just changed hands and will focus more on the haunted aspect.    Lizzie’s father is said to haunt the murder house, but Lizzie herself is believed to haunt Maplecroft.     Maplecroft is the mansion in the affluent part of town that she bought after her trail!    She also changed her name to Lizbeth, and lived with her sister Emma for years, until they had a mysterious falling out (which some give to mean Emma found out the truth).   Lizzie died in 1927 at age 66, having spent years as a martyr (most people believed she got away with murder) in her hometown of Fall River, Massachusetts (which she never moved away from). 

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit about Lizzie Borden.   Thank you for joining me for Femme Fatale Friday, and let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a photograph of Lizzie.   I found the image on

Further Reading