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“We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

29 May

(Think “We Love You, Conrad” from the movie Bye Bye Birdie.)

There was a great deal of sympathy and support for Lizzie Borden from the time of the murders to the time of her Trial – particularly during the time she was incarcerated at the ivy-covered Taunton Jail until June 3, 1893, when she was transfered to the New Bedford Jail.

While at the Taunton Jail, she gained sympathy from the “sob sister” style reporting of her jailhouse interview with Mrs. McGuire which appeared in print on September 20, 1892. In that interview Lizzie tells her of the flood of letters she has received from kind supporters. (Where ARE they? And who has any she may have written back to?)

Then on October 10th, the “Trickey-McHenry” journalistic fiasco by the Boston Globe so promptly retracted with apologies to Lizzie (and John Morse) garnered her more of the “that poor girl” image.

The papers reported the Government had a weak case but the critical revelation of the dress burning incident told by Alice Russell when the Grand Jury reconvened on December 1, 1893, was not published.

By April 1st, 1893, Lizzie was already a popular icon regardless of one’s belief in her guilt or innocence. Her popularity was evidenced by her name receiving the most write-ins for the below contest. The contest was for 5 tickets to the Chicago World’s Fair in 5 specific categories: (1) School Teacher, (2) Policeman, Letter Carrier or Fireman, (3) Mechanic or Gentleman Clerk, (4) Mill Hand, and (5) Lady Clerk – all to be residents of New Bedford. One simply had to cut out the coupon and write the name of the person they felt the most popular and designate which occupation.

Lizzie, a Fall River resident, won hands down for most popular “School Teacher”. Lizzie courteously rejected hers suggesting it be given to another, as it was. (It is believed, however, Lizzie subsequently attended the Columbian Exhibition towards its end run after her acquittal.)

How Lizzie must have relished in the glow of all this popularity. She had never been popular in school and so much wanted to be accepted among her peers. She played her “awful confinement” to the hilt.

Then, exactly one month later, on May 1st, 1893, there was the trumpeting of an “outraged” Mary Livermore at the police for their abuse and sheer adacity to even suspect this virginal Sunday school teacher who was the younger daughter of her long deceased friend, Sarah Morse Borden. And in this same article (below) we learn that even Emma received many letters of sympathy and support.

Lizzie’s Trial would begin on June 5th. She was still perceived as a victim. Her Inquest Testimony was disallowed. Her attempt to buy prussic acid was disallowed. She was acquitted. She was loved. “We love you, Lizzie Borden.”

Well, maybe not so much later.

By the way, just WHERE ARE all those letters Emma and Lizzie received, let alone those constituting their responses if they did correspond back? Emma, I would think, would have disposed of them. They certainly haven’t surfaced in the personal possessions she left Orrin Gardner. Lizzie, on the other hand, may have kept hers. If she did keep them, I have an idea where they might be. She was odd like that. For example, she had no fondness for Abby but she held on to that silver cup Abby gave her all her life.

I think Lizzie would have held on to the mementos that validated her popularity or when she felt loved.

So….

altogether now: “We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

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Posted by on May 29, 2008 in Newspaper Coverage

 

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