Lizzie Borden left $30,000 to the Animal Rescue League of Fall River in her last will and testament. She died at the age of 66 on June 1, 1927, nearly 44 years after she was accused of killing her parents.
“I have been fond of animals and their need is great and there are so few who care for them,” she wrote.
She may have been describing herself.
Lizzie was famously accused of taking a hatchet to her father and stepmother on Aug. 4, 1891 in Fall River, Mass. She was tried and acquitted on June 20, 1892.
Her father was worth about $8 million in today’s dollars, but the family lived so frugally they had no indoor plumbing.
Shortly after her acquittal, Lizzie Borden and her sister Emma moved into a mansion and out of the dumpy little house they lived in when their parents were murdered. Lizzie changed her name to Lizbeth, bought expensive clothes and jewels and indulged her passion for the theater.
A young actress named Nance O’Neil came to perform in Boston in 1904, 12 years after Lizzie’s acquittal. She appeared in at least 35 films after concluding a successful stage career that took her to Europe and Australia. She and Lizzie became such close friends over the next two years that rumors spread they were lovers. No one can know the nature of their relationship, but they shared a mutual love of animals.
Laura Vestal was a young girl who delivered milk and eggs to Lizzie Borden at the elegant home she called Maplecroft. She remembered Lizzie as kind and gentle, always giving her homemade cookies. Occasionally Lizzie would make cookies for the neighborhood children, but some wouldn’t go near her. Laura also recalled Lizzie would go into W.D. Wilmot’s to buy needles for her record player, and the second-floor staff would watch her from the balcony until she left.
Laura’s brother was Lizzie’s paperboy and said she was a good tipper.
On her last day on earth, the dying Lizzie Borden made sure to give a blank check to her chauffeur to cover repairs to his house.
One hundred and twenty two years after her acquittal, there is no agreement on who killed Andrew and Abby Borden. Perhaps her will offers a clue: She left $500 for the care of her father’s grave.
With thanks to the the Lizzie Borden Warps and Wefts blog.