Originally published May 11, 2012
Over the past two years, newly-discovered information has shed a fresh light on the Lizzie Borden case. The Victorian murder mystery may be seen as the American counterpart to England’s notorious Jack the Ripper murders in its ability to hold public attention and generate a cottage industry of theories. Amazingly, more than a century after Abby and Andrew Borden were brutally hacked to death on August 4, 1892, there is more to be learned about this case.
In 2011, Fall River Historical Society curators Michael Martins and Dennis A. Binette published a book entitled Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River that included previously unpublished letters written by Lizzie, as well as new information both about her case and the town of Fall River, Massachusetts. After the book’s publication, in February 2012, the Fall River Historical Society received two journals kept by Lizzie Borden attorney Andrew Jennings.
The journals were bequeathed to the Society by a Jennings grandson who died in 2011. ABC News reports, “Each journal is about 100 pages. One contains a series of newspaper clippings, indexed using a lettering and number system that Jennings devised. The second contains personal notes that Jennings assembled from interviews he conducted. Some of the individuals interviewed are people mentioned in the newspaper clippings Jennings retained.” In an ABC News interview, Martins asserts that the letters first published in Parallel Lives and the information found in the journals undercut the common perception of Andrew Borden as a cold, obsessively stingy man unwilling to share his wealth with daughtersLizzie and Emma. “You have to create villains in order to justify the murders, and Andrew Borden is portrayed as evil, but he gave his daughters a lot more than some other fathers were giving theirs,” Martins contends. In an interview with the writer of this article, Binette seconds that observation, saying, “There is mention in the journals of his relationships with his daughters, saying that their relationships were not nearly as harsh and strict as has been made out to be.” What else of interest is found in the journal containing Jennings’ notes? “There are many references to Andrew Borden’s wealth,” Binette answers. “There is also mention of the lack of a will left behind by Andrew Borden.”