Emma Borden’s Classic Photograph

29 Aug

Swansea“Being single has great advantages in society and life. Besides, just because a woman is single all her days doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a rich and rewarding sex life.” -Stefani Koorey 8/30/09


Emma Lenora Borden, a Fall River spinster of a different age – may or may not have had a rich and rewarding sex life.   We just don’t know.

Emma Borden after sex?

She was Lizzie’s older sister and is shown here in the last known image of her taken from a newspaper artist sketch supposedly made on April 12, 1913.  It was published the next day in the Boston Sunday Post which carried an extensive interview by reporter Edwin Joseph McGuire.

We’ve yet to see photos of Emma in her old age.  Instead, what we see over and over is what I refer to as the “classic” Emma.  But how did it come to surface and end up the iconic image of Emma Lenora Borden?

Emma had possession of family albums as described in a previous post: Family album click HERE.

The “classic” Emma Borden photo shown below  – or a copy of it – was given by Emma to Emma and Lizzie’s friend, Mary Brigham, who had been a character witness at Lizzie’s Trial.  Mrs. Brigham had a son named Richard.  Richard married Florence Cook (who eventually was to become the Fall River Historical Society’s Curator Emeritus.)  When Mary Brigham died, her family albums went to her son, Richard (Florence’s husband) and when he died, Florence still kept possession of them.


Emma may have been around 20 years old when this photo was taken…perhaps at the same time the “young Lizzie” photo was taken.

In 1988, Florence prepared a provenance documentation page for the FRHS archives to cite the origin of the portrait and placed it in the back of the framed photo as shown below.  (Click for larger view).

scan0017(A copy of this page was given to me in 1990 by Florence Brigham and is from my private collection)

Since 1988, the FRHS has granted permission for this same image to be used in a number of books on the case.  But in this internet age, Emma’s grim countenance is now on hundreds of blogs and websites.  She would not have been pleased.scan0018Florence-smallDiminutive but incredibly energetic, the late Florence Brigham, Curator Emeritus of the Fall River Historical Society




2 responses to “Emma Borden’s Classic Photograph

  1. Anonymous

    October 21, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    what do you know, or have you heard, of an incestous relationship between father and daughter?

  2. Anonymous

    October 21, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    what do you know or have you heard of an incestous relationship betwen father and daughter?


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