"Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done she gave her father forty-one." This rhyme is how most people remember Lizzie Borden. The woman gained notoriety in the late 19th century when she was accused, tried, and acquitted of the brutal, bloody murder of her father and stepmother. Most people don't realize that she was a huge animal lover -- a fact that is still helping animals today.

Lizzie Borden and One of Her Boston Terriers
Lizzie Borden and One of Her Boston Terriers

Image via The Animal Rescue League of Fall River

Many things about this notorious woman have been forgotten by history, not the least of which is that she was acquitted of murder. At the time of her trial rumors abounded about her and a tendency towards murder. These tales included such things as she would kill birds as a child to hold pretend funerals, that she had thrown a cat down a well to drown it, and that at some point she had decapitated a cat belonging to her stepmother.  None of these tales have been shown to have any truth to them and is likely to have just been sensationalized gossip.

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden

Image via Celebrities Galore

The one tidbit that may have had some truth was the claim of a local druggist that Lizzie had bought some chloroform with which to kill a cat. This is entirely possible since that was the method, at the time, to humanely dispatch a sick or injured small animals to the next world.

At the same time the prosecution in her case brought up the idea that she was enraged at her father for killing several pigeons from the old barn, claiming that Lizzie had been particularly attached to them as pets. You can't have her as an animal killer and her father and stepmother's murderer inspired by the death of a few birds at the same time. Interestingly, her father's brother who lived next door had committed murder several years earlier (his own children).

Lizzie Borden
Lizzie Borden

Image via Chicago Tribume

After the murders Lizzie and her sister Emma inherited a large sum of money and they moved to a wealthier area of town. They were shunned by most people, even though Lizzie made an attempt to move on by going by the name Lizbeth. In her later years Lizzie was known to have three black and white Boston Terriers -- Laddie Miller, Royal Nelson and Donald Stewart. Boston Terriers were one of the fashionable breed to have at the time. More recently it has come to light that she also had a cat with the comparatively plain name of Blackie. I have also found some evidence of a tabby cat named Barby. By all accounts she adored her pets.

In October of 1913 Lizzie was visited upon by two women, Helen Leighton and Gertrude Baker, who made the case for raising funds to create a shelter to care for draft horses that had been abused. Their words met with a tender heart and The Animal Rescue League of Fall River (Massachusetts) was born in 1914. Lizzie was said to have taken part in future fund raising activities that were staged in private homes -- possibly even hers. The League eventually expanded their rescue work to include dogs and cats.

A Draft Horse in Action
A Draft Horse in Action

Image via Wikipedia

Lizzie drew up a will in 1926 and leaving the princely sum of $30,000 which would be more than half a million dollars in today's money. In 1927 she passed away. The League cared for her dogs for the rest of their lives and had them interred in the Pine Ridge Pet Cemetery. Emma also passed away within a year and left an additional $20,000 to the League.

The legacy of the Borden murders continues to provide funds for the League. The home where the murders occurred is now the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. Creepy daily tours are conducted and while visiting the master bedroom it has become a tradition to leave loose change on a desk there for the tourists hoping to gain protection from the spiteful spirit of Andrew Borden, Lizzie's father. This money is collected and donated to the League.

Lizzie Borden with Barby
Lizzie Borden with Barby

Image via Pinterest

Today The Animal Rescue League of Fall River has expanded and now also includes the Faxon Animal Care and Adoption Center and the Sylvan Animal Clinic.

All in all, this is an amazing legacy of a woman who was accused of two brutal and bloody murders of family members and, though acquitted, has never really lived them down. They say that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If this is true then how you behave now is also the best look at who you really were in the past.

Sources: The Animal Rescue League of Fall River, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Lizzie Borden Society Forum

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