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Abstract

The scene of Lizzie Borden's trial for the murders of her father and stepmother was a spectacle unparalleled by any previous American murder case. Reporters from all over the United States flocked to Fall River, Massachusetts, to witness the best show in the country. Local reporters fortunate enough to have found employment in Bristol County sent exclusives to papers around the world. Wellknown columnists arrived with their entourages and took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. Suddenly a mill town which had been of interest only in their newspapers' business sections became universally known through extended front page exposure. Similarly, a woman whose typicality was her most distinctive feature became notorious, and her trial, a cause célèbre. For Fall River and most of America, the murders became emblematic of the perils of foreign immigration, social disorder, or feminine transgression. In contrast, feminists used the trial to call for a truly representative jury system which would enable women like Lizzie Borden to be tried by a jury of their peers. Chapters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union sent telegrams of support. The noted suffragist and lecturer Mary Livermore visited the defendant in jail. Throughout the country, the prominent and the obscure formed unshakable opinions about Borden's guilt or innocence. Everyone, it seemed, had something to say about the trial---except Lizzie Borden herself.

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