That “New” Lizzie Borden Photograph

19 Feb

As I predicted, this image of Lizzie Borden as a young girl is all over the internet via individual blogs and various digital news media reporting. You’d think bloggers would at least cite how and where it came from, unlike, for example, the Bibliophile Bulletin which is where I snatched *this* one.

I indicated in a previous blog the image was discovered by noted Fall River author and historian, Leonard Rebello – who’s book Lizzie Borden Past & Present is the “bible” on the case.

The more I look at this image the more I am struck less by the winsome quality to the countenance as I am to the sense of a troubled and unhappy young girl. If it IS Lizzie (and I believe it is) and she is around 8 or 9 instead of 12-13 (another possibility), this would have been a time in her life when her sister Emma, 9 years older, would have been away to school at Wheaton Female Seminary.

If one were to subscribe to the “incest” theory, one could theorize Lizzie’s sad countenance was attributed to being a victim at this time, unprotected by her absent sister. On the other hand, I have never thought of Andrew Borden being a very sexual person – rather one who got turned on by making and accumulating money.

When he was married to Sarah, his first wife who bore Emma and Lizzie and Alice (the baby that died at two years) this would account for three pregnancies (that we KNOW about) all spaced over 5-year intervals during their 17 year marriage. This was not the norm in those days for child-bearing. The “incest theory”, so prevalent in the early 1990’s, speculated that Sarah, known to have severe headaches and a volitile temper may have refused sexual relations with Andrew, thus no children after 1860. Andrew may not have had ongoing sexual relations with Abby, and may have then turned to his youngest daughter for such gratification. It was not uncommon for men in that era to commit such acts which they justified by a sense of entitlement.

So could it be that “Little Lizzie”, as this photo has become known, was looking so sad and troubled because she was the victim of incest by her father? Something to ponder.


Posted by on February 19, 2008 in Swansea, The Borden Family


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4 responses to “That “New” Lizzie Borden Photograph

  1. Inspector Winship

    February 21, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    If this is Lizzie then the photo would have been taken no later than 1872 (if she were at the late end of the estimated age). It’s hard to gauge mood and emotion from photos this old. Judging by my own family’s photos from the same time period, my ancestors where all a bunch of grumps.

    By the time this photo was taken, Lizzie had a father who, in spite of his love for his youngest daughter, preferred making money to spending time with his little girl and a step mother who likely was detached and unaffectionate. With her only “real” parent figure, Emma, away at school, Lizzie probably felt very lonely and that may be the emotion reflected in her eyes.

  2. phayemuss

    July 16, 2008 at 11:16 AM

    Very astute, Inspector. I concur. 🙂

  3. mae

    July 21, 2008 at 3:20 PM

    I just came back today from a wonderful tour of Fall River’s Borden sites given by my good friend Lenny Rebello. Needless to say he talked about the recent finds. You should get his insights into the case.

  4. phayemuss

    July 21, 2008 at 3:33 PM

    Yes, Lenny is wonderful about sharing his knowledge of Lizzie and Fall River. Often taking strangers visiting on expansive tours to the typical sites, both far and near. Our past conversations revealed we share the same opinions and insights. Even to the extent of the Fall River Historical Society. LOL!


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