Victoria Lincoln Lowe

12 Jul


The one book on Lizzie Borden that most everyone interested in the case has read is Victoria Lincoln’s A Private Disgrace, Lizzie Borden by Daylight, published in 1967. No other book to date captures the feel and texture of that time in Fall River’s “highly stratified society” as well as in this book. Victoria had her thumb on the pulse of that society and, as proved out by her diaries and journals, a keen insight into the underbelly of what made Fall River’s Lizzie Borden.

On my recent visit to Fall River I met up with Victoria’s second daughter, Louise Lowe Kittredge for a pre-arranged luncheon at Chow Chow City restaurant (where you can get Dim-Sum at 3:00 in the morning!) in Boston’s Chinatown. Afterwards, we went to her home in Newton, MA to look through her mother’s written remembrances that had not been donated with her massive papers to the Eisenhower Library at John Hopkins University.

At the China Gate in Boston’s Chinatown with Louise Lowe Kittredge

Fantastic little bakery in Chinatown

They also had wonderful dim sum to-go!

Part of the journals, diaries and photographs Louise brought out for me to look at and read.

Victoria Endicott Lincoln Watts Lowe, known as Victoria Lincoln Lowe has been somewhat maligned by what I refer to as “Google researchers” because some content in her book is based on best guesses from her own experience and not documented fact. Other assertions, such as the petite mal epilepsy theory, i.e., that Lizzie committed her stepmother’s murder during a “brownout”, and the second to prevent her father from finding her out have also been criticized. But such conjectures and theorizing are no less apparent in many other books with hooks on this case. A Private Disgrace, however, was the work of a woman who did old fashioned research without the advent of the internet. She went to libraries, took notes, interviewed people, and acquired copies of first generation source documents. Plus she was only a generation behind Lizzie, knew her and had relations who knew her and wrote of her.

After reviewing Victoria Lincoln’s diaries and the journals of her grandfather, Leontine Lincoln, I understand her better and have acquired a much deeper meaning and insight into much of what she wrote. More importantly, I learned new information that supported what she wrote, which will be saved for my own book. Leontine Lincoln’s 1909 journal was of particular interest.

With Louise showing me what her mother wrote about Fall River society when she was a young girl during Lizzie’s time.

The following slide show includes photographs of Victoria as she grew up near “Maplecroft” on French Street where Lizzie lived. Her beloved Grandfather, Leontine, is also shown. Also included a rare photograph of Louise with Isaac Watkins, her first husband. I thank Louise Kittredge for giving me these photographs and allowing me their use.


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18 responses to “Victoria Lincoln Lowe

  1. Tommy Woodward

    May 6, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    Ever since I first read Victoria Lincoln’s work on Lizzie Borden when I was in my teens (late 1970s) in our local library, I felt this was the most clear cut solution to the mystery. Nothing I have read since, and I have read many books on the case, answered the seemingly unanswerable questions on the Borden case. Thank you for this look into this remarkable woman’s life and her remarkable life.

    Tommy Woodward
    Wellsville, Ohio
    M. A. History Kent State Univesity

    • phayemuss

      May 6, 2009 at 1:54 PM

      Lincoln’s book is one of the better written, imho, and she certainly puts our thumb on the pulse of that “stratified” society. I’ve had the privledge of reading her private journals and of her paternal grandfather, Leontine Lincoln. Her theory of petite mal epilepsy is too slim too me and based on no real evidence. Lizzie was referred to as “odd” by others but never as one who had “spells”. I also don’t go alone with her note theory – essentially to get Abby out of the house. No subtrefuge would be needed as Abby could simply say she was going to market. But Lincoln’s book is still the first I would recommend a Bordenia newbie read first.

      • Veruca Salt

        June 4, 2013 at 9:42 AM

        ever since I was a little girl, I remember the local library’s copy of A Private Disgrace showing up at the house, It was one of my mothers favorite books, and she would always check it out, when she could find nothing else she wanted to read, She reccomended it to me when I was about 14, and along with a rerun of The Legend of Lizzie Borden, I was hooked. and now at 47 I am still just as fascinated, less so with the actual murders, but more with the woman, behind the myths.

  2. Tommy Woodward

    May 6, 2009 at 11:28 PM

    A note on my last comment, the last sentence should have read: Thank you for this look into this remarkable woman’s book and her life.” The problem with the epilepsy theory is we will never be able to prove it–the technology wasn’t there at the time. The whole idea that it expalins the hachet route Lizzie took makes perfect sense to me, in a normal rational state Miss Borden would never had used a hachet as the murder weapon–it was too direct. Also we have positive testimony that a note did arrive and was found ripped up and destroyed by Dr Bowen in the kitchen stove. The theory that the note was reassurance to Mrs. Abby Borden that Lizzie and Emma would never know about the summer cottage transfer into her name seems to be a reasonable inference from the fact that the policeman was sure the note contained the name “Emma.” Mrs. Lincoln’s theory that the Prince Albert coat sheltered most of the blood during the second killing seems conclusive to me. You cannot help but study the murder photograph of Andrew Borden and the crumpled up Prince Albert coat just seems to scream for attention and stick out like a sore thumb.

    As Lizzie had a murderer for an ancestor, Thomas Cornell (am I getting his name right) who was executed in the 1670’s for the murder of his mother, whose death he nearly got away with, it might ammuse you to know if my family we believe we are descended from a forgotten murderess. If you havent heard of the case you might like to look into it, I think except for the lack of first hand sources and details would make an interesting book, for in its own way there are many questions about this murder that do not seem to be satisfactory explained although few doubt that our ancestor killed her daughter. The case was the murder of Martha Clarke, daughter of Alice Martin Clark Bishop (c.1615-1648) by her first husband George Clark in the summer of 1648. She was tried, convicted and executed in October of 1648 in Eastham, Massachusettes. She was the first woman of the Plymouth Bay colony to be hanged. Mayflower pilgrims William Brewster and Francis Cooke were on the jury and I wonnder if my Mayflower ancestor John Alden was present during the proceedings. I believe that my seventh great-grandfather Zachariah Sutton was the same person as Zacharias Sutton (1708-1780?) who is a descendant of Alice through her daughter (by Richard Bishop)Damaris Bishop. One thing that has struck me as odd talking to other descendants of Alice Martin Clark Bishop who evidently brutally killed her daughter, many of her descendants have in common a great love of family and children in general, including yours truly.

    Well thats enough of that I will wait to her your response about Alice before saying any more as this is technically a Lizzie Borden site.

    Best wishes, Tommy Woodward
    Wellsville, Ohio,

    • Tommy Woodward

      May 6, 2009 at 11:32 PM

      Drat the bifocals I keep making silly errors, the pilgrim involved in the Clarke-Bishop investigations was William Bradford NOT William Brewster. My aplogies. TW

      • Marissa

        September 22, 2016 at 11:31 PM

        Alice Martin Bishop was my 11th great grandmother .

  3. Jan Corley

    February 20, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    I am a descendant of Alice (she would be a distant aunt) and this is so tragic. I live in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada and would love to connect with other descendants. Her brother, George, is a distant grandfather. My email is

    • Anonymous

      November 21, 2011 at 6:20 PM

      Dear Jan, You can reach me at my email, if you would like to discuss Alice more.

  4. Anonymous

    November 21, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    Dear Jan, My email is if you would like to speak more about Alice Martin, Sincerely Tommy Woodward

  5. Richard kendrick

    April 1, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    I happened on a book at a book sale, Out from Eden. Cheap and with no character in its appearance but I found it inviting from the first. What a collection of characters and it made for a great read. Sorry I came to her work 31 years after her death. Will look for more of her books. Dick Kendrick

  6. Anna Merrill

    May 18, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    Would you have current contact information for Victoria Lincoln’s daughter? We covered the Lizzie Borden case in law school and my Evidence professor had a copy of the book held on reserve for his students to read. This was before and the internet and it was out of print, so copies were impossible to find. Somebody stole the original hardcover copy right out of the library!!!

    (I’ve since obtained my own copy)

    Fast forward many years and I’m now an independent, small-press publisher dabbling with digitizing old books. I’d love to digitize this book and make it available so people can read it once again. But to do so I need to know who to contact since the USCopyright Office online records only go back to 1978 and I don’t feel like hopping in the car and driving to Washington DC.


    • phayemuss

      May 19, 2012 at 5:01 AM

      It was digitalized over a decade ago. I’ll send it to you via email.

  7. Louise Kittredge

    June 15, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    Hi, Faye —
    Did you subsequently find out that it had not been digitized after all? Anna Merrill called me about digitizing, and said you’d be interested in writing a forward if if she did it. (I’m still trying to make up my mind.)

    • phayemuss

      June 15, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Hi Louise – I’ve been meaning to call. YES, I think you should let her do it and I’d be happy to write a forward. I’ll be in touch soon.

  8. Brian Keith O'Hara

    April 17, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    One of my favorite books growing up. I read it when I was 12 and got hooked on mysteries and true crime(along with Elizabeth Macintosh, Josephine Tey’s, “The Daughter of Time”). She is very logical and in the end convincing. You may quibble about individual details, but it does give the flavor and ambience of the time, and, you know that the jury couldn’t imagine a woman committing this crime, but look at the Arias(Travis Alexander) Trial to know exactly how wrong that they were.


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