The Liz Library presents Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement - Women's History Month

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Episode #WHM-09 for Day 9
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Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
 who is solely responsible for its content.

Contents of this article may be freely reprinted for educational and nonprofit use.
We would appreciate credit and request that the philosophy of the material not be changed.

The murders of the Bordens, step-mother and father, occurred 08-04-1892. Some the event as the galvanizing event that spread the women's right movement to the common woman. More accurately, it might be considered the date that women's militant involvement in determining their own fates.
      Because Lizzie Borden's trial for killing her father and stepmother marked the first time in American HERstory that women packed a courtroom and showed overpowering public INTEREST in a process that had always been male-directed and dominated. There were no women on the jury, no women in any official position with the court such as judge, attorneys, etc. Judgment by peers did NOT occur for women.
      The hometown women, especially, supported her and cheered her acquittal - then never spoke to her again.
      Historians note that Lizzie was ostracized but fail to note how they rallied around her during the trial.
      The support of Lizzie was by women who HAD to knew the details of Lizzie's life. Anyone who has ever lived in a small town or small city KNOWS that there are no secrets, only things no one talks about.
      The support of Lizzie by women has led modern experts to suspect sexual abuse/incest was at the heart of the murders.
      While her neighbors could excuse/understand what she did - perhaps silently applaud her for doing what they could not do in their lives - they could not publically condone her by associating with her after the verdict. It is also possible that they didn't *like* her (later, she had a well publicized Lesbian affair with an actress), but they stood by her during the trial because of what they knew of her "behind closed doors" childhood with her autocratic, dour, and skinflint father.
      IF Lizzie did commit the murders, there is NO WAY she could have gotten away with it unless there was a conspiracy to hide evidence.
      Two of her neighbors were sitting at the kitchen table located less than 15 feet away from the open window at the Borden house - less than 20 feet away from the coach where the Borden patriarch was hacked to death with a hatchet. It was a brutally hot summer day in August and all the windows were open. Some blame Lizzie's "madness" that caused to murders to the fact that the family had eaten mutton from the same roast for days on end because the well-to-do father refused to waste food.
      Supporting the incest theory is the way the father exhibited a key that unlocked the connecting door between bedrooms. Lizzie had moved her older, less willful sister into a side room that could not be entered except through Lizzie's room. She also bolted the door between her father's room and hers.
      The doctor who was the first summoned to the murder scene lived directly across the narrow street from the Borden house. Sounds in the night penetrate a quiet residential area - and he had his own eyes to witness any problems that both Lizzie and her older sister went through.
      But what about the police? Although the investigation was spotty it was thorough enough for Lizzie's guilt to be obvious. Everything was searched in the house and the grounds. A reputed package carried from the house that night by the maid was AFTER the extensive police search.
      The mystery simply revolves around these known facts: Lizzie did not leave the property and was in a very small house alone (a maid was in the attic) when her stepmother and her father were killed. She said she saw no one else and no witnesses ever came forward who saw anyone else.
      The hatchet murder of the stepmother occurred hours before her father came home at 11:15 am for a nap during which he was murdered. Lizzie was alone in the house for hours after the stepmother's murder with her body lying upstairs.
      The hatchet was never found.

Hidden in at least one attic in Fall River, Massachusetts, is a diary (or in dozens of attics, dozens of diaries and hundreds of letters) in which the writer(s) discusses the secrets of the Borden family and what went on in that tiny house.
      What is remarkable is that none of those diaries have come to light - or that the murder hatchet was never found.- or any reasonable explanation has ever been given for why Lizzie should have killed - unless some deep, dark secret lay at the center.
      Secrets that NICE people didn't talk about in those days.

Event 02-05-1971, women in Switzerland, are enfranchised to vote in national elections but women are not allowed to vote in local elections in many cantons, a situation that wouldn't change until 1994. (Yes, 1994).

Event 01-23-1982: Debbie Brill, Canadian athlete who proved that pregnancy and motherhood need not end a woman's athletic career. Her son was only five months old when she set a new indoor world broad jump record of 6'6-3/8".


      "Finally, when I did decide to have a child, most people, male and female were 'worried' about my continuing to work. I did work until the night before the baby was born...Two weeks after, I spent a day touring a client factory. My feelings about work was clued by my observation of pregnant alley cats. Belly or no, they continue to jump over fences. So can most women.
      "When I was asked how I could continue to work with such a massive handicap, the answer was easy: a big belly only interferes with tying your shoelaces; it does not impair your intelligence. Ask any man with one."

            --Roslyn S. Willett, "Working in 'A Man's World'; the Woman Executive," which appeared in Woman in Sexist Society edited by Gornick and Moran.

© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again. The text of the documents may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use. Except as otherwise noted, all contents in this collection are © 1998-2009 the liz library.  All rights reserved. This site is hosted and maintained by the liz library.