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Parallel Lives: A Social History of
Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River

Parallel Lives wins star review in Kirkus!

Kirkus Award

From the Fall River Herald News, June 12, 2012.

Fall River — "Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River,” written by Fall River Historical Society curators Michael Martins and Dennis A. Binette, has received a Kirkus Reviews starred review, one of the most coveted designations in publishing.

“Parallel Lives,” published late last year, shines a new light on Lizzie Borden and the city and era in which she lived.

Martins and Binette worked on “Parallel Lives” for a decade, traveling throughout the country to interview families who had relationships with the Borden family. The 1,179-page book includes some 35 never-seen-before letters, memos and cards written in Lizzie’s hand, including letters written from her jail cell, and five new photos of Lizzie. The photos depict her as an older woman and have never been released publicly.

“Parallel Lives” is not a book about the murder of Lizzie’s parents, but about the woman and the city.
Martins and Binette have said it is the first true biography of Lizzie Borden.

Kirkus Reviews, founded in 1933 and known as the world’s toughest book critics, awards the starred review to books with “remarkable merit.”

“If Kirkus gives your book a star, that means it’s a great book,” said Bob Carlton, Kirkus’s vice president and publisher. “I know because they annihilated my book.”

Recent recipients have included authors David McCullough, Philip Roth, and John LeCarre.

“It was a very nice surprise to be awarded a Kirkus star, a great honor,” Martins said. “I suspect we were just extremely fortunate and were assigned a reviewer who was interested in the subject, and realized the importance of the new material. I am told that was not the case, that Kirkus does not work that way.”

Kirkus reviewers said “Parallel Lives” is “a must-have for history buffs” and is a “riveting history of ... Fall River, Mass., and its most infamous resident, Lizzie Borden.”

“It’s really gratifying, after nearly 10 years of our working on this book, to have it recognized on this level by an institution as revered in the industry as Kirkus Reviews,” Binette said.

The book can be purchased at The Fall River Historical Society, Amazon.com, or www.lizziebordenparallellives.com.
Email Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com

"Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River," written by Fall River Historical Society curators Michael Martins and Dennis A. Binette, has been awarded an honorable mention for non-fiction in the New England Book Festival's 2012 competition.

The festival celebrates the best books across the United States and is judged by a panel of industry experts. Awards are based on general excellence, authors' passion for telling a story, and a book's potential to reach a large audience.

"Less than 5 percent of the books submitted to the competition are selected for an award, so this is a very significant achievement for Michael and Dennis," said Society President Jay Lambert.

"Parallel Lives" is based on nearly a decade of research and new material from private collections around the world. It provides the first intimate look at Lizzie Borden's private life as well as a detailed study of Fall River high society during the 19th and 20th centuries.

"Parallel Lives" features five recently discovered photographs of Lizzie Borden in her later years, including the only one known to have been taken at her Maplecroft home, and 35 unpublished pieces of her correspondence.

The book can be purchased at www.lizziebordenparallellives.com or by contacting the Historical Society at 508-679-1071.

Read more on the Fall River Herald News website.


Read a note from the curator here.

A nearly-completed book project, currently underway at the Fall River Historical Society, promises to shed new light on the life of Lizzie Andrew Borden and, at the same time, provide a unique, and previously neglected, look at the social history of Fall River during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.

Researched and written for the Society by its curatorial staff, Parallel Lives uses the time span of the family of Andrew Jackson Borden as the framework around which the story unfolds. Profusely illustrated with period photographs, including many never before published, the volume, in excess of 600 pages, will be fully indexed and hardbound. The expected date of publication is late 2009.

Relying on an extensive number of previously unpublished manuscripts and diaries, including a plethora of material gleaned from private collections, the book provides unprecedented insight into Lizzie’s world, into Her Fall River. No attempt is made to retell the story of the Borden murder case, but, rather, a picture is painted of the Fall River Lizzie knew. It was a city of sharp contrasts, where a privileged few, entrenched on “the Hill,” lived their lives surrounded by the factories and laborers that were their lifeblood, with one unable to exist without the other.

Fall River is brought to life: the people, the sounds, and the events that formed its history. Parallel Lives takes the reader back in time and provides a never-before-seen look at her life, and the environment in which she lived it.

Heretofore, Lizzie A. Borden has been presented in black and white, a one-dimensional character defined by legend and innuendo. Now, for the first time, we meet her as a far more complex, complete individual, whose personal life, albeit private, was one of grace and dignity—despite the specter of suspicion under which she was forced to exist. Though silenced by the grave, Lizzie and her contemporaries speak once again, revealing in their own words, heartfelt tales of anguish and tribulation, as well as those of love, laughter, and serenity, thus bringing their Fall River to life.

Here we meet a flesh and blood Lizzie in full color—a woman who was anything but the icon created by those who did not know her personally. Those who did painted an entirely different picture of the mistress of Maplecroft— and the stories they had to tell are here collected for the first time in Parallel Lives.

Sign up now for updates and ordering information regarding Parallel Lives!


A Parallel Lives Update
(February 16, 2010)

We are pleased to share with you the working proof of the dust jacket for Parallel Lives! It is not quite in its final state yet—colors still need to be adjusted and a few tweaks here and there—but we thought that you might like to see it anyway.

Please click on the image below for larger image.

Dust Jacket for Parallel Lives

A Parallel Lives Update
(January 8, 2010)

The Board of Directors is pleased to announce that A Private Family Foundation has become a Lead Benefactor toward the publication of Parallel Lives. Mr. and Mrs. J. Bradford Wetherell, Jr., have also joined the list of Benefactors. Many thanks for their support.

A Parallel Lives Update
(July 1, 2010)

An Indexer's Guide to the Galaxy
by Stefani Koorey, Ph.D.

I am in a unique position. I have read Parallel Lives. As the indexer for this work, I have been working on the project for some time, assisting the authors, curator Michael Martins and assistant curator Dennis Binette, in proofreading the chapters as they have been completed, but before being typeset. After typesetting, I have been given the pages to index, marking them up with indexer's shorthand, in a detailed pursuit for subjects, concepts, names, and relationships. This has afforded me the enviable good fortune to know this book inside and out. That being said, I offer you this review of this still unpublished work, to pique your interest and give you a hint of things to come.


Parallel Lives—a magnificent obsession

Fall River’s history has a fascinating narrative. It has all the requisite characters of a great heroic poem—the events that have played out in this city’s story have been significant to both our nation and its culture. Fall River’s influence has been profound, even as it has waned in decades past, even as its industrial strength has been emasculated by economic factors that shifted the locus of manufacturing to the south and the far east. We do not know if Fall River is a city in ruins or a phoenix that has yet to arise from her many conflagrations. The end has not yet been written.

Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River
is an important work of serious scholarship that tells the tale of Fall River through the life’s lens of Lizzie Andrew Borden, accused but acquitted hatchet murderess, and one of its most well-known citizens.

We follow the life of the city from 1860 to 1927, the years of Lizzie’s life, and, most importantly, the years that cover a great deal of what made Fall River exceptional. The industrial revolution of the late 19th century made its mark, for both good and bad, on the fabric of this city. There was great opportunity for immigrant employment, but in jobs that hardly provided a living wage. With the immigrant influx, diverse cultures flourished (Portuguese, Irish, Italians, French Canadians), but as the mills closed down, newer generations of these ethnicities have elected to seek their fortunes elsewhere. The mills put Fall River on the map, and the mills created an ecological disaster for the waterway (Quequechan River) from which the city gets its name (Indian word that translates to falling water).

And in the middle of all of this sits the Lizzie Borden story—a New England narrative of familial tragedy, where two senior citizens were brutally hatcheted to death one August morning in 1892. That the head of this household was also a self-made Yankee businessman who left his two surviving daughters with enough money to keep them both comfortable the rest of their lives, perfectly fits the larger story of a city in which the events occurred.

Parallel Lives
is about Lizzie Borden, and gives us not just a glimpse into her life, as other works have done, but gifts us with details—images, letters, reminiscences, diary notations, cards, notes, illustrations—more than all other books on the subject have done before, combined. Those interested in herstory, will not be left wanting more, as this work is overflowing with new material and over 500 photographs; certainly enough for generations to debate and put into the contexts of their choosing.

There is one thing that I found completely unexpected—it is that this Lizzie Borden is unlike any other we have ever met. This Lizzie Borden, as told by the people who knew her, loved her, worked for her, and protected her, is soft, kind, considerate, loyal, generous, worldly, wise, polite, and sentimental. I can’t see how anyone could think her guilty of the murders of which she was accused after reading this book. For here, for the very first time, we are privy to the domestic Lizzie Borden, the ordinary Fall River girl— who refused to leave the city of her birth after her acquittal because it was her home; who loved animals; who created a close-knit family of friends and servants that she treated with equal respect and care; who didn’t live her life awash in guilt or regret.

So put aside all of your preconceptions about this woman and this city for they are all to be challenged by this work. We will never see either Fall River or Lizzie Borden the same again. And that is a very good thing.


A Parallel Lives Update
(June 25, 2010)

The Fall River Historical Society is indebted to the authors of the following testimonials, which will appear on the dust jacket for Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River.

Parallel Lives is a remarkable and significant piece of scholarship. Lizzie A. Borden, that most enigmatic woman, is, for the first time, definitively placed in context to the world in which she chose to live. In this watershed treatise, we are granted entree to Lizzie Borden's private thoughts, fears, friendships, and life----thoughtfully revealed by those who knew and loved her. It is an intimate portrait of a woman who never revealed herself to us during her lifetime, and who has never before been more respectfully given voice.”

Stefani Koorey, Ph.D.
Editor and publisher of The Hatchet: A Journal of Lizzie Borden and Victorian Studies

< < < < > > > >

Parallel Lives marks a new era in the study of Fall River and its most notorious resident, Lizzie Borden. Drawing upon a treasure trove of new materials, unearthed during nearly a decade of research, Martins and Binette demolish the many legends of Lizzie. What emerges from these pages is a fully realized portrait within the dense social web of Victorian Fall River: We finally see a flesh and blood woman inhabiting her world. And what a world it was! Fall River embodied the excesses and privation of the Gilded Age – all documented in painstaking detail. Instead of the drab setting for a murder mystery, Fall River emerges as a vibrant character in its own right. This wider social context makes Parallel Lives essential reading not only for local historians, but also for students of Victorian America.”

Cara W. Robertson Ph.D, J.D.

< < < < > > > >

“Fall River’s textile heritage has received intense scholarly scrutiny exposing social injustice whereby its mill operatives were allowed to eat cake, but only the crumbs, and stale at that. Now, for the first time, readers can taste the frosting on the cake. The authors have succeeded in presenting a sophisticated and carefully nuanced study of Fall River high society with its impeccable pedigree.

“Sometimes indulgent, and occasionally bizarre, the “best” families more typically exercised laudable aesthetic taste encrusted in a refined lifestyle that valued dignified behavior and intellectual stimulation.”

Philip T. Silvia, Jr., Ph.D.
Fall River historian, and author of Victorian Vistas.


A Parallel Lives Update
(December 22, 2009)

The holiday season is the busiest time of the year at the Fall River Historical Society. Preparations begin in early October to ready the museum for its annual Victorian Christmas Open House, which traditionally opens to the public the weekend before Thanksgiving. During this very hectic period, holiday events come to the forefront, necessitating that the Historical Society’s small staff put everything else on the backburner in order to meet the demands of the season.

Inasmuch as it was hoped that Parallel Lives would be published in late 2009, it became apparent that this was impossible, a result of day-to-day demands of running the museum, coupled with holiday planning. Progress on the publication, however, is not at a standstill.

The manuscript is complete, sans a few key additions to Chapter XVI, which is the final chapter. The first ten chapters of the book are completely laid out and in final proof, ready for publication. Layout of Chapter XI is currently underway, as is work on the comprehensive index; in addition, the dust jacket is nearly in proof state. The restoration of the nearly 500 photographs and illustrations that will accompany the text is also complete; though time consuming, this painstaking work was deemed necessary to insure that the images be reproduced in as clear a manner as possible.

Work on this unprecedented volume will resume as soon as the museum closes for the winter season; barring any unforeseen events, the Society’s goal is to have the book ready for publication by spring, 2010. We will keep you posted.

Thank you for your interest in Parallel Lives. Please visit again for future updates and additional tantalizing tidbits.

Scroll down for a new Tantalizing Tidbit for Parallel Lives!

Update: May 29, 2009

The Fall River Historical Society is pleased to announce that Stefani Koorey, Ph.D. has been secured to index the manuscript of Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River.

Dr. Koorey, a long-time Historical Society member, brings to the table myriad talents, as well as a vast knowledge of various aspects of the Borden case; her proficiency has proved invaluable. Her resume includes:

  • Author of Arthur Miller's Life and Literature: An Annotated and
    Comprehensive Guide
    , 2000.
  • Editor and Publisher of The Hatchet: Lizzie Borden’s Journal of
    Murder, Mystery & Victorian History
  • Webmaster of LizzieAndrewBorden.com
  • Co-editor of The Preliminary Hearing in the Lizzie Borden Case,
    new edition
    , 2005.
  • Lecturer
  • Publisher
  • Co-founder, Fall River History Club

The Society is confident that Stefani’s expertise will insure that the comprehensive, user-friendly index will be an asset to Parallel Lives, providing a useful resource for researchers.

Welcome, Stefani!

The following letter was received by the Fall River Historical Society:

May 27, 2009

Fall River Historical Society
451 Rock Street
Fall River, MA 02720

Attention: Board of Directors
Michael Martins
Dennis Binette

Dear Fall River Historical Society,

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Fall River Historical Society for inviting me to index Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River. My expertise in the subject matter, as well as my experience as a professional indexer, I think, will serve me well in this project.

After looking at the manuscript, I can honestly say that this book is going to cause quite a sensation, with those interested in either the story of Lizzie Borden or the history Fall River. It is a unique look at a most enigmatic woman, and presents material that has never before been seen or known. In my opinion, this book shatters myths and presents a portrait of one of Fall River’s most famous natives in a way that is sure to shape what historians and authors in the future write about her and this city.

Warm regards,

Stefani Koorey, Ph.D.

A Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

Portrait of _______ (1858-1923)

The "Mystery" will soon be "Unveiled" . . .

Since 1893, the true identity of Todd Lunday, the author of The Mystery Unveiled:—The Truth About the Borden Tragedy, has been just that; a mystery!

Countless researchers, historians, and Borden afficionados have searched extensively, but to no avail.

Now, for the first time, the identity of Todd Lunday will be "unveiled."

Todd Lunday, the pen name for . . .

Another Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

Click on image for larger version.

A Letter From Miss Lizzie A. Borden

Letters and notes in Lizzie's hand are extremely rare, with only a few examples, of a primarily mundane nature, thought to exist.

And so it has remained.

With the publication of Parallel Lives, much will change.

And Yet Another Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

Lizzie Borden postcard

lizzie borden postcard
Click on images for larger version.

"Easter Greetings" from Miss Lizzie A. Borden

If letters and notes in Lizzie’s hand are extremely rare, then greeting cards are rarer still, with no examples known to have so far surfaced.

Until now, that is …

You see, Lizzie was never one to forget the holidays, any holiday, especially so when it came to those of whom she was fond. The bunny sticker is awfully cute, isn’t it? It was just like Lizzie to add that thoughtful touch of whimsy—in fact, it was typical of her.

Oh no, this is not the Lizzie A. Borden of myth and legend – it isn’t her at all. This is the real Lizzie, the one whose life will soon be revealed in:

Parallel Lives

And Still Another Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

Lizzie Borden Taunton Letter

Click on image for larger version.

The Thoughts and Fears of Miss Lizzie A. Borden During Her Incarceration . . .

will soon become known in:

Parallel Lives

And Once Again, We Present A Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

Lizzie Borden Christmas

lizzie borden Christmas
Click on images for larger version.

A Holiday Greeting from Miss Lizzie A. Borden

Dating to the nineteen-teens, this greeting card expressed Lizzie’s feelings about friendship; if she had composed the sentiment herself, the words would have rung no less true. The card was sent by Lizzie to a very dear friend and confidant, and is contained in its original envelope, bearing an inscription from the sender.

It was preserved by a descendant of the recipient, as part of an important personal archive of similar materials, all sent by Lizzie, documenting a close friendship of many years standing. The substantial collection, excerpts of which will appear in Parallel Lives, was recently acquired by the Fall River Historical Society.

And just who was it that received the card? Well, we are not giving that away - not just yet!

Parallel Lives

It Has Been Some Time, But Here Is Another Tantalizing Tidbit from Parallel Lives

mystery woman
Click on images for larger version.

A Photograph of a Very Dear Friend

Friendship, lasting and true, was something that Lizzie A. Borden treasured and clung to; sadly, having been shunned by many, she knew its value all too well.

Depicted here is a rare photographic portrait of an important figure in Lizzie’s life, a woman who was there for her during a very difficult period, lending assistance, a sympathetic ear, companionship, and, above all, loyalty.

Until her dying day, Lizzie would never forget this woman’s many kindnesses, and would hold her memory sacred and dear.

The discovery of this photograph, hidden away in a family album, and the particulars of a relationship about which very little was previously known, are a revelation – and yes, a particularly poignant one at that.

And who was she, you may ask?

Well, we’re not revealing that, not just yet, but soon, their story will be told in the pages of
. . .

Parallel Lives


Check back often for more "tidbits" from Parallel Lives!

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