This article in the Fall River Herald News today by Deborah Allard includes several informative links (see my Timeline) and gives us the super bland recipe for Lizzie Borden’s meatloaf.
In this very recent Town & Country mag interview Chloe Sevigny admits her film “Lizzie” is fiction but it’s what she says about Lizzie the person where she gets it all wrong.
First of all let me say that whenever I ready ANYTHING about Lizzie Borden where it states unequivocably that an “axe” was used (instead of a hatchet), a red flag goes up in my critical, case purist mind. Alas, it was mentioned almost immediately. The trouble with the content of remarks made in this interview is that urban legends are reinforced once again.
Sevigny maintains Lizzie Borden was stifled under her father’s rigid control and had no outlets to vent her frustrations. Truth be told, Lizze at age 32, was just on the cusp of joining the core of that society she so craved. For the past 7 years she had been active in the Congregational Church, taking part in almost all it’s departments, i.e., Fruit and Flower Mission, also Reverent Buck’s Mission where she taught Chinese children, Womens’ Board of the Fall River Hospital, etc. etc. She pretty much came and went as she pleased, entering and existing by the front door as her sister, Emma, did while her father and stepmother used the back door. Lizzie went out frequently to make calls but most of her social engagements involved the Central Congregation Church. And just the year before she had gone a 16 week Grand Tour to Europe. She was no captive of her father’s doman, that’s for sure.
I have repeatedly said Sevigny’s film is soft porn. Just as there are books with hooks there are films produced for targeted audiences. This film is no exception. But I’ll still go see it. And I’ll keep buying those books.
The Reviews are now out on this long anticipated indie film showing at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival.. I labeled it soft porn (not that there’s anything wrong with that) long ago and, thus, the hook. Sounds like slop pails will be needed for Borden case enthusiasts viewing both the new and regurgitated misinformation. Salacious and simply wrong on almost all counts as I can conclude according to the reviews.
The REAL story, the TRUE story has enough emotional tension, suspense, mystery, historical significance, and much more that it seems to me Lizzie Borden’s story still screams out to be made.
Meanwhile, check out this new chat board to voice your opinion and read the reviews below of the latest rendition. Poor Lizzie.
(Originally published in June 1st, 2010)
Lizzie Borden died 84 years ago today. She died at 8:30 pm on June 1, 1927 (a Wednesday) in her home in Fall River, MA. She had been lingering all day, surrounded by her chauffeur and two servants: Ernest Terry, Ellen Miller, and Florence Pemberton. There were others who came to the house as well.
The Reverend Cleveland from the nearby Church of Ascension – a few doors down from Central Congregational Church on Rock Street – would execute the wishes Lizzie had written out on March 31, 1919. Vida Turner would come in and be instructed to sing “My Ain’ Country”, tell no one she had been there and then leave immediately.
The reporting a few days later of Lizzie’s Will was regional front page news and appeared in many newspapers across the country recounting the horrific hatchet murders of August 4, 1892, and Lizzie’s subsequent arrest, trial and acquittal.
Photo credit (cropped): Fall River Herald News
Probate of Lizzie’s Will.
|1st Accounting||June 24, 1927 – May 1, 1929||October 2, 1931(Fall River)|
|2nd Accounting||May 2, 1929 – Jan. 1, 1932||February 17, 1933(Taunton)|
|3rd (Substituted)Accounting||Jan.1, 1932 – Nov. 28, 1932||February 17, 1933(Taunton)|
|4th FinalAccounting||Nov. 28, 1932 – March 3, 1933||March 24, 1933(Attleboro)|
The primary reason for the long probate was Mr. Cook’s failure to include the house/property at 328 French Street known as the “Henry House” which was situated directly east of “Maplecroft”.
Mr. Cook claimed the house was his as a gift from Lizzie. However, Grace Hartley Howe and Helen Leighton, the two major legatees in Lizzie’s Will, were having none of it. They claimed fraud and the matter went to court – Probate Court – in several sessions. The testimony in those proceedings are rich in insight into Lizzie’s character as gleamed from those who testified, including Winifred F. French, who was to receive $5,000 as a bequest from Lizzie. What the witnesses on behalf of Grace & Helen had to say was insightful, but the most provacative was this:
So here we have Lizzie dying and she knows she is about to die but what is on her mind? She is remembering her promise to Ernest Terry to pay for his house repairs and tells him to write a blank check, which she signs and which he takes to the bank. She may or may not have remembered she left him and his wife money in her will, but she wanted this to be extra. A blank check – reluctantly approved by Cook, but cashed at the bank. And Cook, dear man, tried to convince Mr. Terry that that check of $2,500 was to be considered part of the $3,000 cash bequest from Lizzie. What a guy.
Ultimately the court ruled in favor of Helen & Grace and the proceeds from the sale of the property was considered a part of Lizzie’s estate. Although he was judged not guilty of fraud or had bad faith in carrying out the terms of the Will, Judge Mayhew R. Hitch of the Probate Court made Cook accountable for that $10,000 (which was the amount he had sold it for but not yet pocketed) plus interest. Cook made this right in the Final Accounting. I find it amusing that he also included the cost of services from the attorney who represented him, Arthur E. Seagrave. The court approved it. His submittal of the heating bill for the Maplecroft garage where he parked his car, however, was not approved. (Good try but too bad, Charlie).
So as she lay dying on this day 83 years ago, Lizzie Andrew Borden made no deathbed confession (and had she, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog) but she was focused on a potential financial hardship to her faithful driver and friend, Ernest Terry. Her last documented act was to issue a blank check.
Yes, there were many acts of kindness that Lizzie Borden did throughout her life, particularly the second half of her life when she had the money to use as she wanted. We will most likely read more about them in Parallel Lives and perhaps finally see a photograph of Ernest Terry (I’ve never seen one and the book is to have well over 500 photographs – yep, you read that right).
I would like say, on this day: “Rest in peace, Lizzie Borden.”
But we all know that ain’t gonna happen.
Note: Here’s the full article to that posted above as well as the follow -up explaining Charles Cook being exonerated of any fraud in that pesky purchase and sale of the Henry House next door to Maplecroft. (Catherine MacFarland, btw, mentioned in this article, was also a beneficiary in Lizzie’s Will.)
(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.
altogether now: “We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”
RECYCLED FROM JULY 27, 2014 and FROM ORIGINAL IN 2008
Mea Culpa Notice: I was in error. McWhirr’s Dept Store, as shown here was not inside the Cherry & Webb Building. It was a separate structure subsequently torn down and another building in its place. The Cherry & Webb building, however still stands as indicated below.
In Lizzie’s day this was McWhirr’s Department Store, an upscale department store where anybody who was anybody shopped. Shown in this photograph, the name “McWhirr” can be made out on the top of the white building in the background.
The Cherry and Webb Building (so stated on the front of the building) is located at 139 South Main and is now the UMASS-Dartmouth Professional and Continuing Education Center a learning center for professionals, night students and other students. On the ground floor is the Café Arpeggio. Bristol Community College has recently leased space for special courses for special needs. Baker Books, once there on the ground floor in April 2007, gone by August 2007. Darnit.
Previously “one of the city’s most underutilized downtown structures”, Mayor Lambert is credited with its current public I spoke to security, building maintenance technicians, administrators and students, one of the things I learned is that this facility is being used to assist with GED education for a number of the nearly 900 employees who lost their jobs by the closing of Quaker Fabric. I also learned that the only interior “original” to this building is the grand staircase shown below.
There was a time when the building was known to all Fall Riverites as “McWhirr’s”. Imagine Lizzie in her blue India silk bengaline inside this store moving about amongst the crowd. Imagine Lizzie taking a five fingered discount of oh, say, a pansy broach and sliding it up inside her so conveniently fitted gloved hand. Then, with a casual grace and the deportment of “a Borden” strolling towards this staircase and ascending to the second floor.
Without batting an eye nor turning her head to see if she’s being followed, she would maintain a steady but lady-like gait as she faked interest in nearby displays of hats, porcelain figurines, and petite carved bottles of French perfume. With a skill only acquired from experience, she would be diligently aware of any store employee watching her from a near distance.
Her heart beating to the exhiliarating thrill of this familiar challenge and satisfied no one was following, she would turn back to the stairway and begin her descent, one lady-like step at a time. Below her she would survey the vast array of glass table top and standing shelved display cases, filled with products from near and abroad. Men, women and children busy shopping, strolling and admiring all the goods. Busy store clerks packaging purchases and preparing sales slips. Busy, busy, busy. She would survey it all, calmly determined in her objective.
One gloved hand on the railing, the other modestly angled upright, her fashionable cloth purse looped over it. Posture perfect, a lady of some stature, she would have looked straight ahead, a seemingly blank stare masking a steeled will. She would descend, slowly, each step measured with her resolve and comforted in the fact her broach not the least bit detected as it nestled securely inside her modestly priced but exquisitely stitched leather glove.
Pausing at the bottom step, brazenly she would hold up that gloved hand with its secret deposit and there she would act as if only adjusting the fitting. Only a moment, but pause enough to quickly ascertain once more with a quick scan if any authoritative and watchful eyes were upon her. They are not. Only a fresh-face counter girl who looks directly at her and says: “Good morning, Miss Borden”. She would respond with a tilt of the head, a forced, kindly smile, and she would begin her walk towards the front door. A slight turn to the left and she would be on her path, curving here, curving there passing the cases, dodging a small child, brushing skirts against other ladies. Closer, each step closer. The front door now in sight.
Only 32 paces,…. now 20, and the heartbeat accelerates,….. now 12, and the breathing more pronounced…..now 9, and a slightly fevered brow…..now 7 and a quivering chin….the uniformed doorman sees her approach… now 2 steps, two steps only as the doorman pulls upon the door and tips his hat…the step across the threshold…, now daylight. No arm upon hers. No hand upon her shoulder. Big exhale. The quivering chin ceases to quiver, the pulse rate subsides, the fevered brow cools in the bright sun. A liberating wave of relief engulfs her. She feels…. a profound sense of…..special achievement by way of genetic entitlement.
Actually, considering the fashions of the day, forget the broach. She could have concealed a Virginia ham under those skirts. And many of the “ladies who went a-thieving”, in fact, did just that. But not at McWhirr’s.