The Sensational Trial of Lizzie Borden

Brandeis University

Daniel Breen is Senior Lecturer in Legal Studies at Brandeis University, and a recipient of the Louis Brandeis Award for Excellence in Teaching. While his primary academic interests lay in the law and politics of the Early Republic, he also holds a Ph.D. in American History and enjoys lecturing on a wide variety of subjects. Professor Breen is currently working on an article about the secession movement in New England during the Jefferson and Madison administrations.



In August of 1892, Andrew and Abigail Borden were murdered in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts. Substantial evidence pointed to Andrew’s daughter Lizzie as the likely murderer; and yet at the time, many simply refused to believe that she could have done it. How could Lizzie Borden have been acquitted, despite the lack of any credible alternative to the prosecution’s theory of her guilt? 130 years later, the question remains puzzling. In this presentation, we will look again at the evidence, and try to pose some answers.


Recommended Reading:

Lizzie Borden on Trial, by Joseph A. Conforti

The Trial of Lizzie Borden, by Cara Robertson


Discussion Questions:

1) The Bordens were probably killed by someone wielding a hatchet. How does the particularly violent nature of that assault help explain why so many residents of Fall River had trouble believing that someone like Lizzie could have been the assailant?

2) Consider Lizzie Borden’s social status: a middle-class, Protestant woman. Is there reason to think that the outcome of the trial might have been different if she had been a servant, or of different ancestry?




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Joyce Dudash

The Trial of Lizzie Borden

I had heard of Lizzie Borden but never knew the details of the murders. I found the lecture very informative and entertaining.

1 month ago

Lizzie Borden

Daniel Breen did an extraordinary work of presenting this story, I kept wondering if Lizzie liked he father and what that family did to those children when they were little. It would be of interest to read what psychiatrists and psychoanalysts might have to say about what might be told of her childhood. A really excellent presentation. Many thanks.

1 month ago
Kathryn Carter

Very interesting.

1 month ago
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