14 Jan

(This post was originally written and posted by me BEFORE information of Lizzie having been sexually abused by her father was made known to me.)

(Recycled post with addendum in blue towards the end.)

The following tale may not have the same significance as Dr. Robert Ballard’s 1985 discovery of the Titanic, but it falls into the same category of “Who gets the claim to fame”, and the discovery of exactly when and where Emma Borden went away to school belongs to Kristin M. Pepe, Laboratory Director in the Psychology & Education Department of Mount Holyoke College in Hadley, MA. I think Borden enthusiasts, scholars, collectors, and just the curious would appreciate knowing about it – and not having to pay for the privledge – and so I post it here, knowing that those crawling bots or whatever they are will navigate their way and become embedded in any number of Google word searches and linkages.Here’s the background:

At the Coroner’s Inquest held August 9-11, 1892, at the Fall River Second District Court (housed in the same structure as the Central Police Station), Emma Lenora Borden, age 41, testified as follows:

Q. (Mr. Knowlton) What is your full name?
A. Emma L. Borden.
Q. What does the L. stand for?
A. Lenora.
Q. You are older than Miss Lizzie.
A. Yes Sir.
Q. What is your age?
A. Forty- one.
Q. How old were you, as near as you can recollect, when your
father married the second time?
A. Just a trifle over fourteen.
Q. So you probably remember your Mother?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. Have you lived at home most of the time?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. have you ever lived away from home?
A. I was away at school about a year and a half.
Q. That was sometime ago?
A. Yes Sir.

No where else in the source documents, newspaper reports, books, magazine articles, journals, pamphlets, websites, blogsites, Hallmark cards, bumper stickers, YouTube videos or wall graffitti has it been revealed just exactly WHERE she was “away at school”. Oh, for that follow-up question from Hosea Knowlton, District Attorney. Alas, he never asked it and consequently, it has been speculated upon for years as to just where she attended.

First, Kristin followed up on the speculation that Emma may have attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, and since she worked there (only now called Mount Holyoke College), she checked with their archives. A 100 year biographical directory covering 1837 thru 1937 held no entry for an Emma L. Borden. Other seminaries were considered: Ipswich, Byfield Seminary, Buckland Female School, Northfield Seminary, Smith’s College, and even Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Conn. Then it occurred to Kristin that Andrew may have gone the cheaper – and closer – route of sending Emma to Wheaton Female Seminary in Norton, Mass., about 35 miles south of Boston. Her diligence to inquiries yielded what is now the provenance of this new discovery.

Wheaton College’s (no longer named a seminary) Alumnae Register for January 1927, showed an address for our Emma in Fall River. Bingo. Further, documentation in the Registers confirms that Emma attended during the years 1866 to 1868. In the Alumnae Register for 1932, Emma is listed as a non-degreed alumnae with an “x” signifying she was deceased at least by 1932. (Emma died 9 days after Lizzie on June 10, 1927).

Emma attended about 35 years after “Wheaton Female Seminary” initially opened. Emma would have returned to the Ferry Street homestead for the Holidays. For Abby Borden, it must have been the least stressful and perhaps happiest time that she had with little Lizzie who would have been 6, 7 and 8 years old when Emma attended. With Emma away, there would be no psychological tug-of-war with Emma’s “She’s mine!” hostile possessiveness, which Abby must have sadly endured during that first year of marriage to Andrew. Yes, a year and a half reprieve for Abby. And it must have irked the hell out of Emma to have to “abandon” her “baby” sister like that and be sent off “to school”.

Emma may have spent a lot of time thinking about the relationship between that “steppie” Mrs. Borden and her poor little Lizzie. She may have experienced some angst in wondering if Lizzie was growing fonder and more loving towards Abby in her absence, clouding her focus for her academic development.  In any case, it was in 1868 that “Abbie” gave Lizzie a lovely engraved silver cup (see Leonard Rebello’s Lizzie Borden Past and Present, Alzack Press, pub. 1999, pg. 12.) That gift speaks to us of Abby wanting to be a loving mother to this younger daughter of her husband.

A young Abby Borden, circa 1862-1865

With regards to the “incest theory”, I think if Lizzie *was* abused by her father it would have happened during this time period.  Emma was away at school and not there to be a protective buffer.  If Abby knew or had suspicions I think she would have turned a blind eye or been in denial.  Andrew may have thought himself entitled – may have even looked upon his daughters, especially the younger one, as his property.   If Emma herself had suspicions of prior abuse, would she have had even more angst being separated this way from Lizzie?   Was it part of her reason for not finishing her schooling at Wheaton?

This image of Lizzie was taken around the time period that Emma attended Wheaton.   She doesn’t appear happy or content, but then again photos of that period often had unsmiling faces holding still for the camera.  Still…..

The Wheaton alumna association was formed in 1870, but it’s doubtful Emma was an active alumnae. She certainly didn’t leave them anything in her Will.

About Wheaton:
Wheaton College
26 East Main Street
Norton, Massachusetts 02766-2322
(508) 286-8200
Click for Wheaton’s website here.

The campus, of course, is nothing like it was back in 1866, and only a couple of the original structures remain.

The staff at the campus Wallace Library there will accommodate any inquiries for those who would like to follow up.

And so there it is. We now know where and when Emma “went away to school”.


1 Comment

Posted by on January 14, 2010 in The Borden Family



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