3. Lizzie Borden

3. Lizzie Borden

Update: 2022-07-255
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On a hot August day in 1892, a wealthy Massachusetts couple, Andrew and Abby Borden, were hacked to death during broad daylight in their home in the small industrial city of Fall River.

Lizzie Borden, Andrew’s daughter from his first marriage, was arrested for double homicide. The trial gripped the nation – especially Victorian women who pack the courtroom to watch proceedings, in what one reporter described as a sea of calico and lace – referring to the female interest that bridges social divides.

But what does a wealthy white woman accused of murder reveal about the growing immigrant population, swirling politics and dark underbelly of Fall River, New England and beyond? Was the trial as much a battle for what kind of America would dominate in an age of deep-seated tensions? Could a woman of such standing be allowed to be seen as culpable of such a crime? Why, despite an avalanche of circumstantial evidence pointing to Lizzie as the culprit, was she acquitted, only to be judged forever after as guilty by the court of public opinion and in the realms of American folklore?

In this latest episode of Lady Killers, Lucy Worsley meets with journalist Erin Moriarty, who reinvestigates the case from a modern legal standpoint. They examine the differences in how women in such a case were treated back then, compared with what happens today.

And lawyer and historian Cara Robertson - who has written a book on the case - tours Fall River, examining exhibits from the trial and visiting the Borden family house.

We see how this case helps us understand the life of wealthy Victorian women, how they are perceived and their role in American society.

Producer: Diane Hope
Readers: Colleen Prendergast and William Hope
Sound Design: Chris Maclean
A StoryHunter production for BBC Radio 4

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3. Lizzie Borden

3. Lizzie Borden

BBC Radio 4