You're Wrong About - Lizzie Borden with Princess Weekes

Episode Date: October 16, 2023

Forty whacks with a wet noodle, Bart! This week, Princess Weekes tells Sarah the true story of the crime of the century… the nineteenth century, that is.You can find Princess on YouTube here.Support... You're Wrong About:Bonus Episodes on PatreonBuy cute merchWhere else to find us:Sarah's other show, You Are Good[YWA co-founder] Mike's other show, Maintenance PhaseLinks: the show

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Starting point is 00:00:00 You made a million on caskets and now you're a customer, my lad. Welcome to your roundabout, I am Sarah Marshall and today we're bringing you a creepy trolley Halloween episode. Just like we love to do. Today we are learning about famous massacuse its woman and nursery rhyme subject, Lizzy Borden, and we are learning about her with our friend Princess Weeks. We are so thrilled to have Princess on the show. She is an amazing YouTuber. She's a public intellectual.
Starting point is 00:00:46 I love talking to her in conversations where she tells me stuff. And she also, if you saw one of the shows we did in Brooklyn this spring, is great at pying people. She's available for your pying needs if you can afford her. This will be a subject that's familiar to anyone who watched too much cable TV based American history content when they were growing up. And it's interesting to me because it's one of the many stories where we know there was a crime, there was a murder, there was a woman at some point, and this show in many ways is that it's most comfortable when we're talking about a woman whose name became a punchline. And here we are back at it again.
Starting point is 00:01:28 If you want to support our show in ways other than emotionally, you can do that on Patreon or Apple Plus subscriptions and you can hear the bonus episodes that we do often kind of kicking our shoes off and having fun with our beloved guests. And the one we have up that's most recent is a conversation with Blair Braverman about a book called Baby Island. I will give you no more information than that. I can't think of a more tantalizing combination
Starting point is 00:01:55 of title in person. Another piece of news. In just a few weeks, we're going to do our first Christmas time, holiday comedy say-ons with our good friends at American hysteria. It's going to be at the Aladdin Theatre in Portland on December 6th, the very theatre in which I once fell asleep at a badly drawn boy concert. Wasn't badly drawn boy's fault. I was just very tired from being in 10th grade. And we would love it if you could come. Tickets are going on sale later this week.
Starting point is 00:02:27 So keep your eyes on our social media this week. You'll see the information you need about it show up there. And if you are subscribing on Patreon or Apple Plus subscriptions, you will get to buy tickets first. And listen to Baby Island. And maybe listen to Baby Island while you are getting tickets. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for being in this Halloween season
Starting point is 00:02:49 with us, or thank you so much for existing in July if you're listening to this later on. Either way, let's go to Massac Shew Sits. Welcome to your wrong about the podcast where we talk about the hard news stories behind nursery rhymes. And with me today, of course, is Princess Weeks. And we are talking today about Lizzy Borden. When I was like 11, I spent a lot of time watching shows on the travel channel, like World's Spookyest Hotels or whatever.
Starting point is 00:03:26 And Lizzy Borden was connected to one of the world's most haunted bed and breakfast. There was like a segment that I remember watching multiple times that had, like, old timey photography of the crime scene at the Borden's house. And the story was that Lizzy Borden had killed her father and stepmother with an axe, famously 40 wax, and then 41 for the mother. And the story was that you could stay there as like a tourist accommodation and that they were always booked months in advance and people talked about the room being haunted and scary stuff happening.
Starting point is 00:04:01 You could like stay in an old crime scene basically. And I think one of the interesting themes here is how with a little bit of history, crime scenes become cute tourist attractions. And about Lizzie Borden, who's a figure of legend, I have so many questions, including I know that the story is like a focal point of lesbian rumors. Rumors about the potential for lesbians, not necessarily rumors, discussed by lesbians, although I'm sure there's a lot of overlap. It's a case of a woman accused of murder in history, which I think is just one of the most interesting and revealing topics you can ever talk about. First of all, who are you for people who know you or don't know you? You do so much
Starting point is 00:04:45 amazing work and I'm so happy to have you on and I would love for you to tell people where to find your work these days. Oh my God, thank you so much. Like it's honestly like a dream come true. I love your work as well. My name is Princess Weeks. I do video essays on YouTube. I talk about pop culture, the intersections between that and gender and race. I used to do the It's Lit podcast with Lindsay Ellis on PBS. I used to do the geek podcast with Netflix. I've done a lot of things, but my favorite thing recently, without meaning to, has been like wanting to debunk certain narratives in true crime. I recently just did a thing about the Menendez brothers and right after them was Lizzie Borden because I think the same as he like when I first heard about that
Starting point is 00:05:37 Chloe Sevene and Kristen Stewart movie which plays up all the lesbian rumors. I was like, well, this must have truth in fact, right? Like, there must be something. And then you read the actual thing. And you're like, well, we can't say that they were gay, but the possibility is there. Right.
Starting point is 00:05:57 And it's like, well, the possibility is always there to be frank. So, you know, exactly. And you know what? If wishes are dreams and so on and so forth. I used two books for doing research for this. The first one is The Trial of Lizzy Borden by Kara Robertson. And the second one is The Borden Murders, Lizzy Borden and The Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller. And what they both really well illustrate is why
Starting point is 00:06:21 the case is so popular because the big thing is that if Lizzie Borden didn't kill her parents, which I, my hot take, I don't think that she did. I'm just gonna say it out loud. I don't think she did. I mean, one, okay, this is exciting. I want to hear the defense of Lizzie Borden. And there's no one that they can say that they know who did it. There's just no other known perpetrators or like the people who have been highly suspecting her,
Starting point is 00:06:48 her older sister, her uncle, and then xenophobic concerns about the Portuguese. And during the Portuguese, this is truly the mystic pizza part of the world. The amount of white on white racism that was happening during the Lizzie Borden trials because our case takes place in a lovely small town in Massachusetts that at this time had a mostly wasp population but had an influx of Portuguese, Italian,
Starting point is 00:07:22 and Quebec quah immigrants. but whenever a crime would happen in fall, river, everyone would assume that it was those kind of people. And what's interesting about the relationship, the queerness assumed between Lizzie Borden and Bridget Sullivan, who is the maid, is that their relationship and how they are treated in the media is very emblematic of the ethnic tensions at the time because everyone is just like, well, why are you blaming this nice, wasp-protestant girl? Clearly, the Irish maid is the one who did this.
Starting point is 00:07:55 Right. The ethnic tensions around Irish people, and I wonder if Brigitte Sullivan is this like character who is seen as like bringing murder and sex into the household because she's from Ireland. From the emerald aisle, they're like, you know, you can't trust Catholics. That's really what their whole thing was. You can't trust them. They are duplicitous. And there are many aspects of Catholicism, I don't trust, but like, you know, I... What's also fascinating to a lot of people is that you have Lizzie Borden, who at the time of the crime is in her early 30s, unmarried, living at home with her stepmother that she does not like, and her sister, and her dad. And only Elle Woods can...
Starting point is 00:08:44 I know. Do you know what it's like to have a stepmother who's the same age as you? and her sister and her dad. And only Elle Woods can tell. And Elle Woods! Do you know what it's like to have a stepmother's same age as you? Uh-huh! And all of that idea that she must be struggling under some kind of weight. But let's get into it. Mm-hmm. So Lizzie Borden is the second child of Andrew Borden and he is someone who claims to be Self-made, but he already came from a rich family
Starting point is 00:09:12 He just was part of the branch that wasn't good at saving their money And so he does end up making a quarter of a million fortune through manufacturing and selling caskets and investing in certain properties Oh boy. That's like red flag. You made a million selling caskets and investing in certain properties. Oh, boy. That's like red flag. You made a million on caskets, so now you're a customer, my lad. I know. It's like a red flag filter on take-tack.
Starting point is 00:09:33 It's like, mix caskets. So is he self-made. America, I think self-made generally means I manage not to lose all the money I started with. It's like you're doing great, sweetie. That kind of energy. So that is a big part of it. And so his first wife, Sarah dies after giving birth to Emma and Lizzie.
Starting point is 00:09:52 And she dies from the disturbing combination of disease of the spine and uterine congestion, which just sounds like something that might all could not handle. Udder and congestion sounds like just one of the many ways that like medicine at the time talked about the uterus as if it was a giant squid where it was like, no one has seen a uterus before. They jet around the depths of the abyssal ocean continually. So it's hard to know what they do, but sometimes they get
Starting point is 00:10:26 congested. There's too much traffic after making those babies. So she passes away and makes her older daughter Emma promise to be like a mother to Lizzie. So we start off the gay already with oldest daughter trauma of like, all right, it's the 1800s. I got to protect my family. So Emma and Lizzie are very close. They're very close to their father. And then eventually he remarries a woman named Abby Gray. And she is also a spencer because she gets married to him when she is 37. And that's her first marriage. Wow. I hope she pursued some interests. Um, doesn't look like it from what she was just a very quiet humble woman.
Starting point is 00:11:11 And Emma never liked her. Emma was like, I don't need a mom. You're not my real mom. I'm holding down before. Goodbye. So they were always came tankerist, but Lizzie, because she was younger, they were very close until five years before the murder. Abby's half-sister gets kicked out of her home and she wants money to help rebuy it.
Starting point is 00:11:33 So she goes to her husband and is like, hey, babe, you're really wealthy. I don't ask you for much. Like, literally, she wasn't in charge of running the household. Lizzie was the one who took care of it. He didn't wear his wedding ring. He wore a ring that Lizzie gave to him, which starts a whole bunch of other rumors that we will get into.
Starting point is 00:11:53 And her allowance in terms of what she got for being a wife was the same amount of money as her step-daughters. So she enters the family with no interest of her own, no ability to control the household, and a family unit that besides her husband is not really interested in her being there. And the first time she acts for something, the daughters are like, what do you mean you're buying her a house? If you're going to buy her a house daddy, you have to buy us houses daddy. And so, and what is, what art did the girls grow up in prosperity? Like, did they, are they rich by the standards of the time?
Starting point is 00:12:32 They are very well off. The problem is that their dad is kind of a miser. Like, they live in the, not the fancy part of the town. And on top of that, even though indoor plumbing is absolutely a thing, they do not have it. He doesn't want to put out the money for it. And the end here, but would get cold and Massachusetts. They're not unhappy. They just are like, would be nice to live not here. And the way that their house was organized was that the girls room and their parents room was interconnected through a door. And to go into certain parts of the house, they would have to go through each other's rooms. I guess, you know, historically people
Starting point is 00:13:19 slept communally a lot more than we're used to now, but that's like, it's blah, they don't get along. This is attention in the house. And then the day before the murders, the first day before the murders, they all get really bad diarrhea. Oh boy. Some they have bad mutton and they have bad swordfish and they just start having terrible stomachaches
Starting point is 00:13:44 all over the house. And Lizzie is afraid that they're being poisoned. And what are she worried? Yeah, there's an incident where someone robs the house and steals about like 81 dollars from the house, which in inflation is a lot of money. And so Lizzie has this anxiety until some of her friends that she's worried that someone's going to try and hurt her father. That he's making some businesses, that are like, a little upsetting under people, like she talks about overhearing a fight.
Starting point is 00:14:13 And she's just, she's nervous. And then on August 4th, 1892, Andrew Borden and his wife are found dead. Only two people that are in the house for the majority of the time this could have happened are Lizzie and Bridget. And they both clandered and see anything, and they both didn't hear anything. And even though the 41 Wax is an exaggeration,
Starting point is 00:14:38 it's about 1819 for Abby and a little bit less for the father. Their bodies were completely brutalized. It was horrible. And Abby being a heavier woman, they make jokes about the fact that someone must have heard her fall, which I'm just kind of like, why Boston glue, why can't you just be normal for like two seconds? That's a great question.
Starting point is 00:15:04 And so Lizzie goes in and says that they found her father murdered. She acts bridged it to go get help. The police eventually come, a lot of them are away on this annual excursion. There are some off-duty cops, there are some on duty, they come to the house. And there is just no evidence of any break in. Everything is normal, and so everyone is concerned like how did this upstanding moral family get destroyed? And that is the question that everyone's been asking for over a hundred years.
Starting point is 00:15:36 Murder is not as common as the various line orders would ultimately have us believe, but like it happens, you know, fairly often in America, I would say definitely, it could happen less often. I think that's something we could really work on. But brutal murder is rarer. And it's harder to understand
Starting point is 00:15:57 where that could have come from, I think. Yeah, even if you take into consideration the mode of that people think Lizzie has, which is inheritance She's already 32 years old and unmarried. It's unlikely that she is going to get married She's already going to inherit things it's between her and her sister because women can inherit because it's America There's really no Need for it right because her financial situation is already good And I feel like we have this thing too, where when we imagine averse and women,
Starting point is 00:16:28 we imagine that women are equally capable of all forms of wickedness, be they petty or extremely destructive. So we're like, well, she was greedy. So she killed him. And it's like being greedy and killing someone are actually very different levels. Yeah. And I think also this idea that she just hated her stepmother. So I'm like, listen, I know that fairy tales are a thing and we all have evil stepmother energy that we, you
Starting point is 00:16:54 know, think about. But I also just feel like it's a bit of an exaggeration to be like, she was just, she's been mad at her stepmother for five years. And she decided randomly on August that I'm not just going to murder my stepmother, but I'm going to brutally murder my father. What's the immediate aftermath of this? They woke up about seven o'clock, Brad breakfast. Andrew's brother-in-law from his first marriage is there. He leaves around 845. is there, he leaves around 8 45. Around 9 15, he leaves Andrew Borden to go do business downstairs. And then 9 30 a.m. is when they assume that
Starting point is 00:17:32 Abby went upstairs to make the guest bed. And that's when she got struck 19 times. Then by 10 45, Andrew Borden comes back home. And somewhere between 10 45 and 1145 while he's taking his nap, he gets murdered. So he's attacked while he's sleeping. Yeah. That's rough. What I also think is so interesting is that the timeline is that
Starting point is 00:17:54 this killer had to been in the house around nine o'clock. Kills Abby at 930 and then waits over an hour. That is pretty crazy. Did he have a sandwich? Did they have a sandwich? With all the blood to hit someone 19 times. With an axe, right? It really wasn't an axe. It was a Hatchet. With a Hatchet. So it's a Hatchet basically a smaller axe. It's a smaller one. The grip is different and they were very common in the house like most houses. Right. Because for like wood and stuff. Exactly. Right. But the I guess the point is that a hatchet, even a really nice, even a really nice hatchet, really sharp and well maintained,
Starting point is 00:18:33 it's like, you would, I assume, get pretty splattered. Exactly. They would get splattered. And what they kind of assume is that with Abbe specifically, that she was facing the person who struck her when she was first hit. So whoever was doing the hitting would have gotten blessed by her all over them. If not like dexter levels, they would initially be some of it. And you know, not just stereotype women, but when we do commit these crimes, we're poison people. We really are. And then when you make it so that society is organized where really the only way to get a lump sum of money
Starting point is 00:19:08 is by a man dying and giving it to you, then like, you got to kill some men. I'm sorry, that's because that is encouraging. But yeah, we're poison people, not to stereotype, but in general. Yeah, and to quote Jay-Z, ladies, his pimps too. We do have women who do take it to that level, but it's rare and it's usually an intimate partner murder, like it's usually a husband. Right. So the person who finds the father's body is Lizzy and she calls
Starting point is 00:19:35 out to Bridget. So she calls Bridget Maggie. And the reason why she does this is because they had another maid who was Irish called Maggie, and they just chose not to learn Bridget's name. Wow, Lizzie. Wow. Can't sell Lizzie board in, honestly. Honestly, for class crimes, Lizzie board in should go to jail. But. So she finds them and she tells Maggie to go get Dr. Bowen, the family physician.
Starting point is 00:20:03 So he comes and then one of the neighbors sees Lizzie, Mrs. Churchill and she's like, oh no, they've killed father. In the immediate aftermath of the crime, she kind of waffles between being very collected and being emotional. And then this time period, it was normal for you of a certain class to be very common collected. Yeah. The problem is, just like today, if you are a woman and you are not performing your gender norms appropriately, the police will assume it's you. Right. And I feel like you kind of are screwed either way because if you're collected, then you're seeing cold. And if you're upset then people can accuse you of acting. Exactly. And I think everyone was quickly believing that
Starting point is 00:20:51 it was likely to be either her or Bridget. Someone quoted in the book, this is from Kara Robertson book. She wrote one of Marshall Hill's civic-minded correspondents told him to arrest Bridget Sullivan, who, quote, carried out the orders of her priest. Oh my God. Adding that true Americans will learn in time to never employ a Catholic. Another warn that servants were a sly and lying class. Okay, wow. So, where is Lizzie's sister doing all this? Emma was outdoing errands, which good for her, honestly.
Starting point is 00:21:26 Which is not also not the strongest alibi, unless like everyone is like, yes, I remember her. She bought legumes. Yeah, Emma was out at the time. Okay. So she had that as her alibi. That's, she was about 15 miles away at the time. And one of the conspiracy theorists that they planned it together.
Starting point is 00:21:46 But I also feel like if you made a deathbed promise to your mom to always protect your little sister, you're the one doing the axe-wielding. As an older daughter. That's so true. As the older sister, I totally like, you're gonna do you gonna next. So I don't think that she'd be a part of it. The other thing was that they said, although an axe says again, the quote, Robert's in, again, why they've weren't racist against Bridget, they said, although an axe was a man's weapon,
Starting point is 00:22:11 because of the physical strength and proximity required, working class Irish women were known to be perfectly capable of swinging one for domestic service, often included chopping wood and slaughtering animals. Probably any working class woman, when you really think about it, but... But specifically the Catholic was. Listen, when you are full of the body and blood of Christ, is there anything that you can't do? Oh, that's so true.
Starting point is 00:22:36 Including murder your employer. Bridget wanted to leave so many times because she's like, these people don't know my fucking name. They keep calling me Maggie. How old is Bridget, by the way? Bridget is, I believe she's around the same age as Lizzie. She's older. Okay. And she very much was like,
Starting point is 00:22:54 I don't really wanna do this anymore, but Abby was like, please just stay. I'll pay you more money. So that's how miserable poor Bridget was. But one of the things I had to turn for Lizzie was because she was not performing her femininity well and during an incident where she was talking to one of the police officers and he was like, did you know if your father and your mother got a log and Lizzie just goes, she's not my mom.
Starting point is 00:23:23 your father and your mother got a log and Lizzie just goes, she's not my mom. That is like, no one in 1892 has any excuse for not knowing how you behave when you're recently bereaved because like everyone had probably lost her friend or a relative by adulthood by then. You know, as many people have now, but I think in somewhat lower numbers. And isn't it clear that like, yeah, as you said, you just kind of vacillate wildly between moods at times and correct people. Yeah. But her saying, she's not my mother. She's my stepmother. My own mother is dead. Mm-hmm. Literally made the investigators think there's something wrong with her, which
Starting point is 00:24:01 I think is a good thing. Oh, shit. God. If I have just had like my father and stepmother murdered and someone's like, so is that your mom sweetie? I would just be like, no. Like, this is too much today. And just that alone. Just her saying, that's not my real mom. Got her to become the primary suspect. Okay, you guys. You're like, she's a man. She's got to be a murderer. The officer really said, quote, I don't like that girl. Oh my God.
Starting point is 00:24:33 First of all, she's in her 30s. It's interesting that they found her so unlikable that they didn't focus on the, we hate the Irish theory. Well, the thing that happened is that Bridget was a very good witness because she was very calm, she was collected. And Lizzie was very impersonable. She was very tursant. When she was answering questions,
Starting point is 00:24:58 she would not answer it properly and during the inquest. So the murder was on the fourth and the inquest was on the eighth. And during the inquest. So the murder was on the fourth and the inquest was on the eighth. And during the inquest, one, she wasn't able to have her lawyer with her, which is red flag number two, because I really think like even rich people should know, talk to have your lawyer with you, but he wasn't allowed to be there with her. And she's giving all these answers that they're seeing as contradictory. They'll ask, where were you in this point? And she will say that she was one of plays, and then Bertha Testimony will say that she is somewhere else.
Starting point is 00:25:30 At certain points during the inquest, they'll ask her, like, did you in your stepmother coral? And Lizzie will be like, we got along. And they'll try to describe it. She's like, I don't know what you want me to say. Like, it's very like proto-caren energy. And the men do not like that. They take it very aggressively and they keep saying that she seems very days and out of it. And is this inquest that leads to her being brought to a hearing in the grand jury trial. But what is
Starting point is 00:25:59 important to understand is that while she is being interrogated, she has been on 16 milligrams of morphine every single day. Oh my god. And the morphine, a lot of it contained opium, which they say was also a hallucinogenic. So part of why she so disoriented, as she's talking to to the officer is because she is disoriented. She is high. I feel like this is a great example of the kind of tunnel vision that we got as like spectators to crime, you know, as people who can send media or whatever, and also that people who investigate and prosecute crime get of like once you decide someone is suspicious,
Starting point is 00:26:44 everything they do, you can then read as suspicious. It's really very easy Absolutely, she needs to prove that she's innocent. She's not doing that with her behavior And you would think that it's already bad enough that the murder has happened in her home The only other person who's there with her is saying things that contributed to testimony But on top of everything else, she's on her period. So, you know, my legs vary for everybody, but I would say my experience of being on my period, I'm so tired, I fall asleep all the time. You fall asleep all the time, so she's on her period. Her father, who she did love, has just been murdered,
Starting point is 00:27:25 and her stepmother's been murdered, which is still traumatic. And her stepmother, who she at least seemed to like feel okay about, you know, maybe she's being snappy, but that doesn't mean they hated each other even. And even if she did hate her, it doesn't mean you want her dead, you know, like you can't be that's the thing. There's frankly plenty of people I hate, and I have killed none of them. Exactly. Look how strong we are. Look how strong. Look how strong. Exactly.
Starting point is 00:27:49 And back then, they called being on your period having fleas, which I think is horrific. On the 11th, they issued an award for her arrest and they have a preliminary hearing. And during this hearing, they introduce evidence that at one point before the murder, she tried to get some poison at the drugest. And they're like, you see, she has had murder on the brain. And Lizzie's like, I've never even been in that store. I don't know what you're talking about. Interesting. And the the drugest essentially came some woman, who he says is Lizzie Borden, came in asking for poison, a specific kind of poison that you would use on like a seal skin or like a fur coat to help get rid of like moss or something.
Starting point is 00:28:35 I don't have, I don't wear fur, I'm not rich, so I don't understand how that works. God bless. These are, right. I wonder what today's equivalent of that would be like, but there, you know, there are so many household, like, cleaners, bathroom, kitchen cleaners, chemicals that we buy that I'm sure it could also be used in case like this to prove that we have murder on our minds. Exactly. I bought too much age acts and they're like, are you trying to build a bomb? No, I just want No, I just really like cleaning my tub. I guess bought a big economy thing of Drainow yesterday.
Starting point is 00:29:09 I'm armed and fabulous. I always think about like, wow, can anyone ever buy a barrel ever again without people thinking, oh, they're gonna put a human body in my tub? Right. And I used to, for years, I would always have
Starting point is 00:29:25 rope in my car and my trunk just in case someone needed to tie, like, for moving furniture or like kayaks or whatever. But so many people sat and were like, oh, looks like you're a serial killer. And I was like, why have serial killers ruined being handy? Exactly. She is indicted officially for the murder of her parents. But before this happens, in a stunning turn of journalism, on October 10th, an article comes out by the Boston Globe. Spotlight. It is spot, exactly spotlight. They released an
Starting point is 00:30:06 article that says titled Lizzie Borden's secret and they claim the following things that Lizzie Borden was pregnant, that her father knew about it and that he threatened to kick her out if she didn't tell him who got her knocked up. And according to the globe how they wrote it, he issued an ultimatum saying that she had 24 hours essentially to let them know the name or leave this house forever. And that there were going to be 25 witnesses that were present for this coral. I don't even have 25 friends. How are you supposed to just you wait? And then they also had other witnesses who quote,
Starting point is 00:30:49 had seen a hooded blizzy boarden in the guest room at the time of her mother's murder. So they had all of that. Within 10 hours, it was discovered by the editors that it was a hoax. What? Oh my God. Really? Literally.
Starting point is 00:31:06 So, this guy, his name is Henry Tricky, terrible name. He was their star crime reporter and he bought what he thought was the government's case from a private detective name Edwin McHenry for $500. But McHenry wanted to fuck with him because the previous year they were on opposite sides of a murder case and this was his revenge. Which first of all, why would you trust information from a man you know you screwed over in a court of law? Because you just think so highly of yourself maybe. I don't know what tricky was thinking, but he's been 500,000 of hoax and it got published in the Boston Globe.
Starting point is 00:31:54 Fantastic. It just goes to show that fact checking has never been something people have been terribly interested in and that has not served us very well. I mean, you can tell it's hoaxy because it's like, I think normally if you were rich and you're 30-something old-made daughter who was pregnant, you would be like, well, it seems like you have to marry the fellow sweetheart or you would be like, here, take this tonic and have a really heavy period. Yeah. People, I think, when confronted with dramatic events, like often kind of like figure it out and don't kill anyone.
Starting point is 00:32:30 Exactly. And I think they want this narrative. There's been these rumors that Andrew Borden was engaged in some sort of incestuous relationship with Lizzie. That's been a rumor that's been circulating for quite some time. And I think the main reason why that happens
Starting point is 00:32:44 is because one, she's unmarried, two, they had a close relationship and people like to demonize that. There's this underlying assumption that if she is single at her age, there must be a reason. And it can't be at a difference to her's marriage, knowing that marriage is actually quite an LFU already have money and an idea of like well her father must be keeping her
Starting point is 00:33:11 on a tight rope and that's why she can't get married. Who knows either way but I feel like in the absence of specific evidence supporting a theory it's best to just kind of stick with what we actually know and it's yeah it's worth pointing out that like at this time in history, whatever other factors are involved, like if you're an old maid with a rich dad, you probably have quite a lot of freedom. And like your life is still being run by a man. And it would be if you were married.
Starting point is 00:33:39 But in this case, your body isn't going to be completely destroyed in about eight years. And I also think that like, you know, when your mother dies very young and like you don't really have healthy relationships, like there's no evidence that she was like missing out on some great love affair. Yeah. It's like she was single. She didn't have the penny bills from everything I've read the life of a middle class woman of her caliber was actually very boring So in my opinion like you just kind of like have a lot of free time and she was in a bunch of charities She was involved in temperance. She was involved in like some children's charities like she had her little
Starting point is 00:34:17 Activities that she was doing. It's okay to be single. That's one of the worlds here You shouldn't be tried for murder simply because you're single. Listen up ladies. It's because you're single and you love your dad and you hate your stepmom does not mean you're a murderer. Yeah, it's really true. And well, and temperance is interesting too because my understanding of that is that the temperance movement, you know, had many points, some good, some bad, a lot of think of the children in there, you know, is about criminalizing alcohol, which ultimately did happen for a while,
Starting point is 00:34:51 but that it was one of the first social movements and one of the first aspects of American politics that allowed women to speak publicly and organize. Exactly, and build bonds outside of the home. And I think that one of the things that's interesting about Lizzie Borden is that we don't know much about her personality. We don't know anything about her life explicitly
Starting point is 00:35:14 before the murder. So even when people talk about her being cold or her being indifferent, like, she was not an interesting enough person before the murder is for people to know who she was. And I think it's so indicative of what it was like to just be a woman of a certain class in that period. Like you just kind of, you lived and you died. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:35:33 And there is nothing exceptional about your experience. And I think overall the thing that's fascinating about Lizzie Borden is that other than this, she's a deeply uninteresting person. Like, she's just, which honestly, good for her. I mean, like, it's shut out to all the all the Brunettes out there who think I'm never going to accomplish anything in life. It just fall into your lap. Yeah.
Starting point is 00:35:58 I love this as a read because I think it really is true that like some of these legendary figures are just people who things happen to or who were kind of there in a moment that became historically significant in a way they doubtlessly would have preferred not to have happened and it's like the ultimate truth that they're just like kind of boring and that's their right. Exactly. And with Lizzie because she was like this wealthy woman, all the papers were kind of split. You had the upper class papers that were very much, she didn't do it, she's a good girl, yada yada yada. Then the working class magazines were really talking
Starting point is 00:36:33 about the big issue of how she was getting treated, how long it took her to get arrested and died, which you know, fair and valid. And then the anxieties about the immigrant class and how there there was that we should be going after and this was all the things roaming around her. So anytime she appeared, anytime she's brought up in the magazine, it was all about what's her mental health
Starting point is 00:36:56 like, is she crazy? And the term hysteria was thrown around quite a bit and oldie but a goodie. So as soon as people found out that she was on her period during the murders, they were like, oh no. The theory that people had was that menstruation was the entire problem of female behavior and that the onset of men's disease was viewed as a time of great danger. Wow. A systemic shock repeated monthly with very intensity. And so experts like Austrian criminal psychologist
Starting point is 00:37:29 Hans Gross contended that menstruation lowered women's resistance to forbidden impulses, opening the flood gates to a range of criminal behaviors. If I forbidden impulses, you mean chocolate. He didn't say not chocolate. And he argued, quote, menstruation may bring women to the most terrible crimes. Various author-stite, numerous examples
Starting point is 00:37:55 of sensible women driven to do the most inconceivable thing in many cases to murder. And my response to this again is that I think when men are confronted, especially by cases where women murder men in self-defense or after a prolonged period of abuse, that they're like, what could the motive possibly be? Because being abused by your husband
Starting point is 00:38:19 as part of the natural order, that can't be it, but you're period. That's dangerous though, that's the bad one. That's what's killing you right now, isn't it? Yeah. And like, again, to talk of periods, which I didn't know we would do today, I get a period every month. I always have, for whatever reason, I have not tried to keep it away and it has never left. And it just, I just get tired. And I feel like maybe we want periods to be about something more than just like physical battery. But as someone who has
Starting point is 00:38:52 PMDD and other severe forms of PMS, I do think it's interesting how like there are literal actual conditions that do appear during menstruation, that affect people who menstruate. And yet, the thing that we mostly hear about is like, but it's gonna make you wanna murder everyone. It's like, well, maybe I just wanna cry. Yeah. Most people just wanna watch Pride and Prejudice and cry, you know, like, we don't just murder our stepmoms.
Starting point is 00:39:21 And if we do, then like, there's more to it. There's more to it. It's like, it's kind's based on the idea that menstruation is this very dangerous volatile thing as opposed to a vulnerable thing that makes someone require extra care. And also that in this historical period, it feels like people really believe
Starting point is 00:39:40 that women are always one bad day away from ax murder. It just makes me feel empathy for her because I just think of how horrible it must be to be accused of something because you just don't conduct yourself in a realistic way. Totally. And I will say that having read the information in both of these books, I think what the trial really perfectly illustrates is that the police did not do a very good job. The case was always very weak. She is the most natural suspect,
Starting point is 00:40:14 but it doesn't mean that all the evidence points clearly to her. And one of the things that happened right before the trial started is on May 30, another ax murder happened. And a 22 year old woman had 23 hits in the back of the skull. They found the person who did it. It was unfortunately a Portuguese man.
Starting point is 00:40:37 So that was obviously something that made everyone really nervous. The only reason why this murder is seen as so important is because the people involved already had subscribed importance. If this was a murder that had happened to a family that was working class, you probably wouldn't have heard of it. And so this idea that it was abnormal, yes it was brutal. But we know about brutal cases all the time. Like, Jack the Ripper is well known because of how consistently brutal it is. Like, that's what supersedes it from being murdered that obsessed a certain working class, you know. Because I think
Starting point is 00:41:19 that if it wasn't so brutal, they wouldn't have cared about sex workers dying. It was the entire circus of it that really makes it fascinating. And I think with the T-Boardness exact same thing, it's the appeal of this spister killing her own family to gain something, some nebulous something. And it's like the fascination the public has with the person they imagine, which is so interesting, because I think that what makes I think, in my opinion, what makes Jack the Ripper captivate people and continue to captivate them is that, you know, if it had been the murder of one sex worker who was, you know, sleeping out on the street because she had nowhere else to go, then there's no way we would remember that. There's no way we'd be talking about it now.
Starting point is 00:42:06 There's no way people would have talked about it for more than a day back then. But because we can connect these murders and use them to create this idea of this like violent scary ubermengsh, we care about him and we care about this like theoretical violent greedy spencer, who we make. But then, you know, the real people still get left behind. You know, we've both covered true crime stories. And I think the women at the center
Starting point is 00:42:36 are always so interesting to me because they unveil what people really prioritize. And even reading like the accounts on the first day of the trial, people were like describing Lizzie Borden and it's all waffles between very plain looking old made to Madison Wellbred, to of course those who didn't like her pulling an early transphobia and highlighted that she has a masculine jaw. and highlight of it that she has a masculine jaw. Oh, no.
Starting point is 00:43:05 She just looks like a regular woman who didn't know about sunscreen. You know, like, and that's okay. Who had the misfortune to not invent it for herself, right? Exactly. So as the trial happens, the big thing that screws over the prosecution, because they'll bring up all these people saying
Starting point is 00:43:23 that they saw Lizzie doing something and their big star witness is this woman named Alice Russell because she was a really good friend of Lizzie board and they were really close and she testifies that she knew that Lizzie was going to burn a dress. So Lizzie had this particular dress that she says had green paint on it and the same day as the inquest she burned it because what some people would do was burn their old clothes. And when it happened Alice's like oh girl you shouldn't have done that. And it's one of those things where it's like, that does sound very, very bad. But it also sounds like something that if you think
Starting point is 00:44:10 that everything is fine, you're like, I'm just gonna burn this old dress, it has pain on it because. That's the thing. It has pain on it and this is what I would do and I told two people, because she told her sister, she told us like, I'm gonna go do it. And they're all like, okay, fine. Go burn your address.
Starting point is 00:44:25 But yeah, she burned the dress. And this was seen as like a huge betrayal by Lizzie. And they never spoke again. But basically with the testimony, some was that like, she didn't hide the dress. The argument being made is that the police searched the entire house and they didn't find it. So they must have been sneaking it around,
Starting point is 00:44:46 but then it defends, which I think is really hilarious, is just like, well, the police are all bright. They said, which is perfect. And like, if you want to be shareable to the police and a story like this, which you can, you can say, look, everybody makes mistakes, everybody overlooks things.
Starting point is 00:45:03 This is part of what it means to do a job. Like you don't have to think the police are corrupt and incompetent, although I do, to think that they're human and they're for fallible. Yeah. When one of the officers fleet testified, quoting from Robertson again, he said that he had not seen a dress with any blood stains,
Starting point is 00:45:23 nor had he found a painstained dress. In other words, if Lizzie B had not seen a dress with any blood stains, nor had he found a paint stained dress. In other words, if Lizzie Borden had burned a dress covered with paint, then where was it at the time of the search? A home ran through the court as the minds of the people grasped the fact that if he did not see the paint soil dress, it must have been because it was skillfully hidden. Skillfully. That sounds like an assumption to me,
Starting point is 00:45:43 because I think that like if it's green paint against any colored dress and it's not red, you would just glaze over it. Yes. But you know, fine, maybe she had the dress, but if she had the dress, she'd also have to wash her face in a house with no indoor plumbing because where is the blood? Right. Is there like a creek for her to like run down to or something? There is no creek. That is a big thing for me is that if the timeline is that her father was running around 1045 and that at 1110, she's like, they killed my dad.
Starting point is 00:46:18 She like washed off entire blood of her in under 30 minutes. And even if something is like technically physically possible, like that doesn't mean that it's anywhere near likely to have happened or you know possible, but not probable. One of the things that came out of the Elizabeth Montgomery did a Lizzy boarded movie in the 70s. Perfect. And in that movie, they are the ones who play with the idea that she committed the murders naked and that's why She didn't have any blood on her. It's a pretty unintuitive idea, isn't it? I just think like it just sounds so like so 70s like yeah, she didn't make it I'm like I'm like I don't think so. I don't think if you're gonna be swinging a hatchet
Starting point is 00:47:05 to bludgeon your family members that you want titty flaps. You know, that's a bra wearing the situation. I really, I really want full coverage if I'm gonna murder my parents. Like, especially when you think about like, it's a swinging motion. Like, you need a sports bra for that. I you would be distracted.
Starting point is 00:47:24 You'd be in the middle and you'd be like, ow, do my boobs really look like that? And so like I just it's one of those things where I'm like, that is such a reach in my opinion. During the case one of the reporters made a comment that I kind of think was very funny in A cab for the time, his name is Joe Howard. He wrote of think was very funny in A cab for the time his name is Joe Howard. He wrote about all the police officers that were coming in nearly everyone who has taken an active part in the endeavor to fasten this awful crime upon Miss Borden has within the year been promoted until now captains in fall river must be thick as flies in a cow pasture. Which I was like that's very good A cab. Yeah that's beautiful. I was like well look's very good A cab. Yeah, that's beautiful. I was like, well, look at the Boston glue.
Starting point is 00:48:07 I'll try to redeem them. So I love it when the Boston Globe is a character. Look, all the writers there and there were female reporters there as well. Like, and a lot of reporters actually believed that Lizzie Bourne was innocent, which I think is interesting. Yeah. But he does look a comment about that there's a group of women who are in the watching area who are like,
Starting point is 00:48:28 if I was there, I could convict Lizzie Borden. And I'm just like, it's like, I'll be like, anti-Amber herd women who are like on TikTok, just being like, oh, I know what real abuse looks like. Oh, boy. Like, thanks, guys. But there were a lot of really interesting female journalists who really came and worked on the case as well and whose
Starting point is 00:48:47 testimony and transcripts are part of what we know about the case, which is really interesting. Yeah, while post the trial Lizzie's reputation really never improved during the case itself. A lot of people were saying that there was a there was a lot of balance coverage of the trial itself. a lot of people were saying that there was a balance coverage of the trial itself. The big issues was that the prosecution's own witnesses would constantly contradict each other about what happened, especially about the discovery of things like the search of the dresses. And eventually they did end up discovering a hatchet, but not on the property. It was like far away from where they actually were, which would require that either Lizzie or someone else like ran far miles to like throw the
Starting point is 00:49:28 hatchet away. First, Medley and Desmond, two of the cops, gave vastly different descriptions of the wrapping of the hatchet head. Second, flea and Desmond appeared to differ on whether the search of the household was thorough. Finally, there was in the eyes of some conspicuosity of Bridget Sullivan in the above events because it was Bridget who led them to the box containing the hatchet in the basement. Hmm. According to Mulaney, Bridget handed him the hatchet, though she had testified that she had never touched it. Bridget too had blue dresses that were not given the same scrutiny as those of Lizzie's. And was the hatchet clean when they found it? Bridget too had bleed dresses that were not given the same scrutiny as those of Lizzie's.
Starting point is 00:50:05 And was the Hatchet clean when they found it? It was clean. There was no blood on it. Okay. Then like how, I guess don't think that's the Hatchet. And some more things that would happen is they claimed that they went to a barn that Lizzie was supposedly taking care of some fishing lines in and the cops were like, oh, it was undisturbed. And then literally during the defenses, cross examination, two boys came in and said,
Starting point is 00:50:32 oh, yeah, we were messing around in there like earlier. So it wasn't undisturbed. So great police work. Yeah. Exactly. So like the police work is just very inconsistent. And then eventually when Emma takes the stand to testify on defense of her sister, she essentially says, look, I hate our son mother more than she did and I didn't kill her.
Starting point is 00:50:54 And I think what was really telling is that there was nothing that the prosecution could do could do that gave Lizzy enough motive to be there or enough evidence to keep her there. And when she finally showed like typical female emotion because she fainted at one point during the trial, I think that also helped her like, oh, she's delicate. You got to prove you're not too sturdy and I really creeped out by that. Exactly. She was not sturdy when she needed to be. And during the final remarks, her lawyer said, a policeman is even more susceptible to bias because he is possessed and saturated with the thoughts and experiences he has with bad people. He also told the jury, you do not get the graceability in the world inside a policeman's coat. And I was just like, wow, he really is going for the A-CAP. And then one of the news officer said,
Starting point is 00:51:55 not one police officer in a thousand is possessed of the acute sensibility or a trained habit of observation. That's fantastic. They had so much reasonable doubt that when everything was said and done, it only took an hour and a half of deliberation before she was acquitted. Wow. This is an all-male jury, right? There aren't female jurors yet. Oh, yeah, it's all- it's all-male jury. That's interesting. And do we have any insight into why they voted that way? They just didn't really believe that she was capable of it. What we do know about the Jerry's is that they voted unanimously for a quiddle and then
Starting point is 00:52:36 they just weighed a little bit longer. So they just are like, what is way a little bit longer before we announced that we're done? They're like, let's play poker a little bit. So this is not embarrassing. But they didn't trust the police as much as I think other people do, which I think is actually kind of interesting of like, they were able to just poke holes.
Starting point is 00:52:56 And she had a very good defense team with her. Like there was a former governor involved, family lawyers. Yeah. Good for you Lizzie. She had our own little dream team. I mean, I'm sure that that's a big part of it too, is that she had like good lawyers, which like, and then, you know,
Starting point is 00:53:13 it's not just a question of skill, right? It's a question of having the resources to have the time to be like, hey, there are all these holes I can poke and what the police are saying, and then discredit them in front of a jury. In the time that she was in, it was possible for her to come across as maybe a little cold and distant, but ultimately for there to be no reason to just think of her as this dark figure. She was just an ordinary person that happened to have something very horrific happen around her.
Starting point is 00:53:46 And while in many ways it makes sense for her to be the primary suspect, nothing she does even after she's acquitted to me screams of guilt. Like, she literally just moved to a better part of town, but stayed there her entire life with her dogs. And I would want to get away from the murder house. So, you know, with her dog. Yeah, she moved out of the murder house. She got dogs and she actually had her car
Starting point is 00:54:10 built a special so that she could ride around with her dogs in the seats. She's innocent. As for a second place, I was like, free her. I was like, that is a free woman. And, you know, she just kind of lived quietly for the rest of her life. Obviously, they didn't sell the old house
Starting point is 00:54:28 because they believed in the value of good property investment, which, and she just lived for the most part alone. She gave my and a children, she did some charity work. She was ostracized in the town, but she still chose to live there. And either you're very innocent or you're very delusional. Yeah. You know, like, doesn't the only two choices, you didn't do it. And you're like, I'm not leaving or you're like, I'm delusional and I'm going to just be here.
Starting point is 00:54:53 Anyway, and I have chosen to believe the former because I just don't need the police at a very good job. And I think there's enough reasonable doubt that even if she was responsible, they don't prove it well enough. Yeah, and I feel like it just, it works for me to give the benefit of the doubt to people, both in stories like this and, you know, looking at kind of crime media, especially things that are unfolding generally. And I think, you know, I mean, one of the things that people talk about thoughtfully, or is part of the kind of general raft of excuses for the toxic parts of the true crime fandom
Starting point is 00:55:33 is this idea of like, I have to hone my sense of fear so I can be safe. The world is very predatory. And it's like, it is, but like, it feels like true crime often allows us to distract ourselves as women, especially from the fact that like, we don't need to worry about the guy at Walmart, like almost certainly, very low odds, that that's anything. We do need to worry about the guy we're going home to. But in cases of female, patricide and matricide, it's almost always abuse-related, which I think is why the myth of sexual assault and incest has persevered so much in the case, because that is the most common-seeming rationale for why she would have done it if she did. Right.
Starting point is 00:56:21 And in many ways, it's like the most reasonable one. Yeah. Yeah. Especially with the Menenda's brothers case. This idea of killing for inheritance is so often used is like well it's it has to be about the money and not to sound totally anti-capitalist but when you already come from money when you already have money and you already as a woman have so many limited options. Her dad being alive is the best thing that could have happened to her. Right.
Starting point is 00:56:49 Because he would just keep giving her more stuff. She don't have to work. She just gets to just enjoy her father's money. And she would even say like, yeah, if I wanted to ask him for something twice, he'd never denied me things. So the only motivation that they can give is like something made up or unfounded by the fact. She just was a woman in her 30s single
Starting point is 00:57:11 who didn't like her stepmom and lived at home. And that's many of our listeners right now. Aside from the fact that the nursery rhyme is a bit of an earworm, like why do you think we're still talking about Lizzie Borden? Because if you asked most people, if you asked me, like, what other American murders can you think of from the 1890s, you know, the answer would be, oh my God, zero. Yeah, I think it's
Starting point is 00:57:36 like between this and like the death of the Limburg baby, you know, it's like, yeah, those are the two big ones. I think that one is a woman, and you know, phenomenally, still building her empire and whatnot. And I think the fact that it's unsolved, because as far as legally is concerning, they don't know who killed this family. Yeah, and who is this fucking axe murderer? Hatchett murderer. Hatchett. Yeah, and who is this fucking axe murderer? Hatch it murderer.
Starting point is 00:58:03 Hatch it. Spending misinformation. Who is this person who came into this house, murdered two people, and then just left? Yeah. And no one saw anything. The specter of lesbianism in this story, it seems pretty obvious to me now is like,
Starting point is 00:58:22 break it doesn't wanna have sex with someone who refuses to learn what her actual name is. That feels like something you would slap on to make Lizzie seem like even more of a modern and therefore dangerous woman. Yeah, the idea that one person on one of the many theories is that like, oh, that the father caught Bridget and Lizzie together in bed.
Starting point is 00:58:44 And I'm just like, oh. He wouldn't have even known what he was saying. This might even have adjoining rooms. Yeah, but we're like, but what's her motivation? Lesbianism. It's the basic instinct approach to crime. Yeah, it's, I know you want her to be a murderer, but it is okay that she's not. Yeah, we can still pay attention to her even if she didn't kill anyone. It's so interesting how history will choose a villain, and it's as per they stick with, because it doesn't matter that she was acquitted, and we should be okay with the idea of reasonable doubt. And I just think, you know, if the hatchet marks don't fit,
Starting point is 00:59:30 you must click. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to Princess Weeks for being our guest and taking me on this journey. Thank you to Miranda Zickler for listening. Thank you to Princess Weeks for being our guest and taking me on this journey.
Starting point is 00:59:46 Thank you to Miranda Zickler for editing. Thank you to Carolyn Kendrick for producing. See you in two weeks. you

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