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Author Presentation: Cara Robertson
April 15, 2019 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
The Trial of Lizzie Borden
We are thrilled to host Cara Roberston at Northshire when she presents her book The Trial of Lizzie Borden–the remarkable new account of an essential piece of New England mythology based on twenty years of research and recently unearthed evidence.
The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she or didn’t she?
The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.
“One of the enduring mysteries in the annals of American crime is what happened on a hot August morning in 1892 on a busy residential street in Fall River, Massachusetts. The gruesome axe murders of Andrew Borden, a prominent local businessman, and his wife, Abby, have been the subject of debate for over a century. Paring away layers of myth and speculation, this is a meticulous examination of the incarceration and trial of Borden’s younger daughter, Lizzie, whose high style and impenetrable demeanor generated a media frenzy that, guilt or innocence aside, ushered her firmly into the realm of legend.” — Reviewed by Alden Graves
Cara Robertson is a lawyer whose writing has appeared in The Boston Globe, the Raleigh News and Observer, and the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities. She was educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford Law School. A former Supreme Court law clerk, she served as a legal adviser to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague and a Visiting Scholar at Stanford Law School. Her scholarship has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Humanities Center of which she is a Trustee. She first started researching the Lizzie Borden story as a senior at Harvard, and published her first paper on the trial in the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities in 1997. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is her first book.