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Lizzie Borden: The Untold Story Hardcover – Import, 1961
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Radin shows that the circumstantial evidence against Lizzie Borden was weak, and that much of what people have come to believe about the case is legend, not fact.
One of his arguments in favor of Lizzie Borden's innocent is that the act would've been completely out of character for her. People who knew her described her as a very kind person. (In fact, after her father's body had been discovered, and her sister, who was staying in Fairhaven, had to be informed, Lizzie said that the telegram should be phrased carefully, because there was an elderly person where her sister was staying, and the shock might be too much for her. This doesn't sound characterstic of a person who had just committed a double homicide.)
We know little about Bridget, and we don't know what her motive might have been. But she may have been angry at Mrs. Borden for being asked to clean the windows on such a hot day, and there were some oddities in her version of what happened the morning of August 4. An example is her recounting that, at about 9:30, Mrs. Borden has asked her to do the windows, at least a half hour after Lizzie claimed to see Bridget with the poles, water and various accouterments of window-washing. Also, Mrs. Borden may well have been dead at this point.
There were various newspaper reports at the time in which certain people expressed their opinion that Bridget should have been scrutinized as much as Lizzie.
We'll probably never solve this mystery, which is why it is the stuff of legend. But much of what we know is legend, and Radin does what he can to get at the facts and come up with an interesting and intriguing theory.
Edward D. Radin covered hundreds of murder trials as a news reporter, and received awards for distinguished fact-crime reporting. In the 1950s he was given the "signed confession" of Lizzie Borden and used scientific investigation as to its authenticity (Chapter XI). Radin hired a Questioned Document Examiner, who explained why it was a forgery. Radin explained the falsity behind two legends of Lizzie. He pointed out that Edmund Pearson's "Trial of Lizzie Borden" was so one-sided as to be a hoax. Radin corrected that story, but also bent his story by pointing suspicion at Bridget. Lizzie said "it wasn't Bridget ...", and the same lack of evidence against Lizzie also applied to Bridget!
Charles Henry Putnam said Lizzie was "a nice girl, fond of outdoor activities, fun to be with, a very pleasant companion". Those who didn't know Lizzie had a different opinion. Most knowledge of the crime came from Edmund Pearson's book, not the original sources. Radin studied the trial testimony, the preliminary court hearing, portions of the inquest, and newspapers from that time. Lizzie Borden was innocent. The assumptions of guilt was due to caste and class prejudice against the wealthy mill owners. A newspaper war resulted when the upstart 'Fall River Globe' blamed Lizzie, and the establishment newspaper defended her. An unstated cause was the human emotion where people like to look down on someone else. Radin's book shows his skill as a newspaper journalist in describing events (Chapter II). But he does omit or censor facts, such as the name of the heir who had been forced to go along with Andrew Borden's low offer. Fall River pioneered in the manufacture of cotton cloth.
Radin assumes a "lack of display of normal tenderness" based on the question to Lizzie whether Mr. and Mrs. Borden were "happily united". This was a trick question that could trap Lizzie into admitting too much knowledge for a Puritan maiden. The bedroom placement may answer that question. One fact unmentioned by most writers was that the 1890s saw the worst depression until the Great Depression of 1929-1949. A publicized murder trial kept people's minds off their own problems. Remember the Lindbergh kidnapping? James J. Kirby tells of his favorable impression of Lizzie before the murders. Lizzie's charity work distinguished her from the rest of the family; would she keep her father's secret no matter what? She was "a very kind person throughout her life".
Much has been made of Alice Russell's story that Wednesday night, but was it ever corroborated? Could it have been created to force Lizzie to testify at the trial? Hiram C. Harrington's story has too many details to have resulted from a few minutes of discussion; I think it was created as a provocation (Chapter VI). Arguments over Lizzie created many brawls (Chapter VII). Lizzie was supported by feminists and the WCTU. Chapter VIII summarizes the trial, "one of the most mysterious of the celebrated cases of the century". When Lizzie described the contents of the basket it could have been from prior knowledge. Chapter IX explains the case against Edmund Pearson and his biased writings. This is an important analysis. Chapter X tries to solve the case from the known suspects. Radin suggests Bridget's testimony was a detriment to Lizzie, so Bridget could not have been rewarded with a "big bundle" of cash. [Unless it was all part of the show, as per Arnold R. Brown.] Radin uses differences in testimony to cast suspicion on Bridget, but people remember differently. Radin is wrong in claiming that it takes longer to wash inside windows than outside windows (practical experience). The fact that Lizzie, Emma, and Uncle John slept in the house suggests they knew they would be safe there; Bridget didn't know and stayed away. The big fault in Radin's solution is its claim that he was a better judge of the facts than the dozens of people who were there at the scene. No, and his failure to mention Bertha Manchester says so. David Kent's "Forty Whacks" is easier to find and more modern than this book.
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