Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one...
Lizzie Andrew Borden (b.1860 – d.1927) was tried and acquitted in the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Massachusetts. Media coverage of the case created a furor throughout the United States reminiscent of the Rosenberg, Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson trials. No other suspect was ever charged with the double homicide, and speculation on the case continues to this day.
The case is curious because there was no physical evidence linking Lizzie to the murder. The broken axe the police found in the basement was clean of blood and the police refused to use forensic testing for fingerprints (a science then in its infancy). The defense raised evidence that Andrew Borden was a hard businessman who had made many enemies. On the other hand, the atmosphere in the Borden household was tense, Lizzie resented her stepmother, she was prone to mental instability, and she had purchased poison a few days before the murders which police suspected was the cause of food poisoning. There was a financial motive: Lizzie was upset her father had transferred property she was due to inherit to other family members. And then there was the 'paint stained' dress Lizzie burned three days after the murder…
In March 2012, the handwritten journals of one of Lizzie's defense attorneys, Andrew Jennings, finally came to light. The journals, which contain newspaper clippings and notes Jennings made at the time of trial indicate he felt Lizzie was innocent. However, in later years there was tension between Lizzie and Jennings. Once the trial was over, Jennings cut off any mention of it with a firm statement that he preferred not to discuss it. The sudden disappearance of the Borden maid back to Ireland always cast a shadow over the characters of Lizzie’s three attorneys, and Lizzie resented their whopping $25,000 legal bill (an ungodly sum of money back in 1893). Attorney's get paid to believe their clients are innocent, and Lizzie's three lawyers got paid better than most.
Although there are many books written on the double homicide and subsequent murder trial, A Private Disgrace is far and above the most readable. Victoria Lincoln was a professional writer who grew up in Fall River, near Lizzie Borden. As the daughter of a family that produced machinery for the cotton mills that were the foundation of Fall River’s economy, Miss Lincoln grew up acutely aware of the social distinctions, manners and mores of the society to which the Bordens belonged and in which Lizzie's trial took place. This first-hand knowledge, combined with her painstaking research, make her unique among writers about the case.
Lincoln’s hypothesis in 1967 that Lizzie suffered from a form of temporal lobe epilepsy is widely disregarded – such symptoms would more likely be attributed to mental illness today – and recently uncovered documents may indicate that some of the “facts” on which Miss Lincoln relied were, in fact, gossip. Even so, she makes a convincing – and entertaining – argument for Lizzie’s guilt.
BEST FACT CRIME WORK OF THE YEAR 
--Mystery Writers of America
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
She majored in English at Radcliffe College, married the scion of a well-to-do Southern family, divorced, and later married Victor Lowe, a professor of philosophy whose primary interest was in the work of Alfred North Whitehead. They settled in Baltimore, Maryland. She had one child from her first marriage and two from her second.
Miss Lincoln wrote many essays and short stories for women's magazines and several novels including February Hill (an early success in 1934) and Charles (1962) about Charles Dickens.
After many years of wanting to write about Lizzie Borden, and despite advice that the market for books on Lizzie was saturated, she decided that her unique perspective on the murders deserved a hearing. A PRIVATE DISGRACE received an Edgar as the best non-fiction crime book of 1967 from the Mystery Writers of America.
In 1981 Miss Lincoln died in her home in Baltimore. She was 76.
Table of Contents
1. Why Lizzie Took An Axe
2. Why Lizzie Was Suspected
3. Why Lizzie Was Accused: The Inquest
4. How Lizzie Became A Cause
5. How Lizzie's Cause Was Won
6. Lisbeth of Maplecroft: An Epilogue
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I first read A Private Disgrace in law school while preparing for a mock trial. Victoria Lincoln has walked that fine line between accurately telling the facts she uncovered via meticulous research and telling a tale that is interesting (unlike the other horrid books we were assigned). She tells her tale like a Homerian bard might sing a song to a king; history and fact intertwined with just enough human interest to make it feel more like you have the inside scoop on some juicy gossip rather than the meticulously researched historical tome this book really is (and we were forced to read the actual court transcripts to prepare for our mock trial … this book -is- pretty accurate). Although Lincoln falls firmly into the school of 'Lizzie did it,' the picture she paints of Lizzie is a sympathetic one. The science Lincoln relied upon in 1967 to hypothesize Lizzie suffered from a form of temporal epilepsy is nowadays discredited, but nonetheless the meticulously researched details Lincoln documented enable somebody with a mental health background (such as myself) to peg Lizzie as a likely sociopath (think Sleeping With the Enemy). I was pleased to see this book is now available once more in paperback and e-book and recently re-read it. It was as much a pleasure to read the second time as the first.
I read this years ago having found it in a box of books in our basement.....It was awesome! I have recommended it to family and friends!
Very interesting telling of a story we all thought we knew.
I have read much better accounts of the Lizzie Borden case. The author's writing style was so flowery. She took one concept and went round and round until it was difficult to know what she was actually talking about. Way too long and not to the point. The nearly 730 pages could have been cut in half and still gotten the point across if the author would have only stated her findings and moved on. She was biased regarding Lizzie's guilt. I was very disappointed that she spent little time on the actual trial. Whether you think Lizzie did it - or not - read books based on the facts of the case for more accurate information.
I have really enjoyed reading this book. Just watched the newer movie on have learned the true faces from the book!
Don't waste your money! Don't waste your money on this book!