The True Story Behind The Lizzie Borden Murders

Was Lizzie Borden just a sweet Sunday School teacher, unfairly blamed for her parents' deaths? Or did she brutally and methodically murder her parents -- and get away with it?

Lizzie Borden Photo

Wikimedia Commons Lizzie Borden, 1892.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, the Borden house awoke early.

The maid, a respectable Irish immigrant named Bridget Sullivan, served breakfast to the patriarch, Andrew, and his wife, Abby, as usual. The eldest Borden daughter, Emma, was away visiting friends.

And the younger daughter, Lizzie Borden, an unmarried 32-year-old Sunday school teacher, slept in.

She came downstairs after her uncle, John Morse, who had arrived unexpectedly for a visit the day before, left the house. Lizzie decided against eating breakfast.

Andrew decided to go downtown to Fall River, Massachusetts, where the family lived, at around nine in the morning. The Bordens were prosperous, and their patriarch served on the boards of several banks, and worked as a commercial landlord.

In her husband’s absence, Abby went upstairs to make the bed Morse had slept in the night before. She left that room only one more time, looking for fresh pillowcases.

Meanwhile, Andrew had returned home. The maid let him in, and Lizzie came downstairs, claiming that “Mrs. Borden” had left the house after receiving a note saying that a friend was sick. Lizzie and Emma always referred to Abby, their stepmother with whom they had an unfriendly relationship, as “Mrs. Borden.”

Her father believed the story, and retreated to his room, where he would remain for only a few minutes, before coming back downstairs and settling on a sofa in the sitting room.

Sullivan, who was not feeling well — she reported throwing up that morning, perhaps from a flu that had traveled around the house days prior — went to rest in her room, where she fell asleep.

According to Sullivan’s testimony during Lizzie’s trial, she only awoke when she heard Lizzie screaming that her father was dead.

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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