Lizzie Borden took an Axe

Lizzie Borden took an Axe

June 11, 2018 Off By C.S. O'Cinneide

Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done,

She gave her father forty-one.


Ah, everyone loves Lizzie Borden and her notorious whacks. She was young, pretty and loaded, a combination that has always been catnip to the American public. Without it, the Kardashians would have to get real jobs.

But despite butt selfies and Kanye’s outbursts, the Kardashians have not split their parents’ heads open with an axe yet. This is what fair Lizzie is supposed to have done to her father, Andrew and stepmother, Abby on August 4, 1892 in their home town of Fall River, Massachusetts. Lizzie’s  trial was front page news all over the country, the 18th century version of being Instagram famous.

Andrew Jackson Borden was a widower who hung onto his money tighter than an enraged daughter can hold onto an axe. Despite having a personal worth that would have hit over seven million in modern US Dollars, his daughters Emma and Lizzie were still responsible for housework and had to live on the less fashionable side of town. Poor Lizzie, it was reported at the trial, had to even clean her own seal skin coat, with the arsenic solution she ordered a day before the murder. Did you know you can clean a seal skin coat with arsenic? Neither did I. You can apparently do other things with it too.

But when Andrew Borden married Abby Durfee Gray after Emma and Lizzie’s mother died, his fist got a little more relaxed and he started giving all sorts of stuff to his bride’s new family, like chocolate, and houses and the like. This pissed the two sisters off royal and was the motive attributed to the murders and much bursting of corsets when they shouted at him.

While Emma was 15 miles away at the time of the murders, Lizzie was at home, conveniently popping outside to hang out in the barn or elsewhere each time someone got leveled with an axe. One imagines the murderer like some kind of Polkaroo character in Victorian dress, that only appears when Lizzie isn’t looking.

While other theories abound, it was Lizzie who was put on trial for opening up Abby’s head with 19 whacks (rather than forty). She was also charged with her father’s murder, this time with 11whacks, of which one split his eyeball in half. He was still bleeding when Lizzie called for the maid who came running down the stairs from cleaning the windows. This is a very fresh kill indeed, and totally supports my Polkaroo theory..

Other theories include:

Lizzie’s sister is a criminal mastermind and used her vast experience with needlepoint to embroider an airtight alibi

The maid did it. A variation on the butler did it. Motive? Apparently, she was mad she had to clean the windows. (Note to self: when cleaners say “they don’t do windows” make sure to believe them)

The maid and Lizzie did it, so they could continue their wild love affair. This was postulated in a piece of fiction. And while I enjoy a good lesbian murder romp, I’m just not buying it.

Borden’s illegitimate son did it, apparently in a big floppy suit with polka dots.


Whatever theory you support, Lizzie was acquitted. Despite her being caught burning one of her dresses “because she got paint on it.” She must have done the painting right after she finished cleaning up that seal skin coat with the arsenic.

The two sisters lived together for years in a house in their hometown, until they had a fight and Emma moved out, apparently because of a wild Hollywood party that Lizzie threw, or because she murdered their parents, no one is quite sure.

Lizzie Borden died on June 1, 1927 in Fall River of pneumonia. She is buried beside her sister Emma in the family plot of Oak Grove Cemetery.

Photo By Anonymous –, Public Domain,