Episode Ten: Parallel Lives and the Fall River Historical Society

Welcome to a special episode of the Lizzie Borden Podcast. Today we will be talking with the Fall River Historical Society curators Michael Martins and Dennis Binette who will discuss the story behind their phenomenal book Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River, published by the Fall River Historical Society in 2011.

The Fall River Historical Society is located at 451 Rock Street in Fall River, MA. Information about the Society can be found on their Facebook page or on their website lizzieborden.org. They are a public charity organization charged with collecting and archiving historical artifacts and material related to the multi-cultural history and heritage of the City of Fall River. A part of that mission is to preserve and protect the legacy of the Borden Family, Lizzie Borden and the historical impact of the Borden Murders of 1892. Their Lizzie Borden exhibit includes rare photographs, crime scene artIfacts, and personal items that belonged to the Bordens. They also have a research library with a large collection of primary source material on both the Borden tragedy and Fall River history. The Fall River Historical Society should be part of any historically minded tourist’s visit to the City.

Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River is a ground-breaking work and arguably the only professional biography of Lizzie Borden. Michael and Dennis worked on this book for approximately ten years, tracking down material related to Lizzie and the Borden family, cultivating relationships with owners of private collections and descendants of those who knew Lizzie, and piecing together a vast puzzle: a portrait of Lizzie Borden, Fall River’s most notorious resident and historical mystery.

The book is filled with one revelation after another. It opens a window onto Lizzie Borden’s childhood through the diaries and letters of her friends. The details of her 1890 European Tour are revealed through Lizzie’s personal scrapbooks filled with hundreds of postcards and annotations. Because of this book, we can now read her prison letters, and gain profound insight into her private thoughts during the long ordeal of her incarceration and trial. New revelations about Lizzie’s Maplecroft years including light shed on her relationships with actress Nance O’Neil, her sister Emma, and a small but loyal group of servants and friends who maintained their silence about Lizzie for decades. And then there are the new photographs of Lizzie, published in this book for the first time, from the private collections of families that knew her best and had gained her trust. Most of all, Parallel Lives teaches us all we need to know about Fall River society during Lizzie’s lifetime so we can put her tragic life into historical and cultural context. The book has as much material about Fall River’s golden age when Cotton as King as it does about Lizzie Borden, and the entire story is held in a delicate balance where the social fabric of the city helps us understand Lizzie on a deeper level.

Parallel Lives received a starred review from Kirkus Review, one of publishing’s highest honors, and Kirkus declared it one of the best books of that year. It is certainly one of the best books for a hard core Lizzie Borden enthusiast. Here to help us gain some insight into Parallel Lives are the co-authors and curators of the Fall River Historical Society, Michael Martins and Dennis Binette.


Michael Martins (pictured right) and Dennis A. Binette (pictured left) are the curators of the Fall River Historical Society. Their previous work, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. Lizzie A. Borden – The Knowlton Papers 1892-1893, a volume of unpublished letters and documents from the files of Prosecuting Attorney Hosea Morrill Knowlton, was unprecedented, being the first collection of primary source documents ever made available on that case. Both are recognized authorities on the Borden case, and have appeared in numerous televised interviews and documentary films on that subject.






Producer: Nine Muses Books
Engineer: Mason Amadeus
Writer/Director: Richard Behrens
Music: Melora Creager

Richard Behrens is the author of the Lizzie Borden Girl Detective mystery series and the co-founder of Nine Muses Books, and host of The Lizzie Borden Podcast.

Melora Creager is an American cellist, singer-songwriter, performing artist and founder of the cello rock group Rasputina.

Mason Amadeus is an on-air personality for 103.7 KNE-FM and Sunny 97.7.  In his spare time he makes music and short films with his friend Tucker. You can find them at http://MasonAndTucker.Bandcamp.com and http://Facebook.com/MasonAndTucker.

Mason runs an independent sound design group in Keene, NH:  Amadeus Imaging. They offer reasonable rates for high-quality studio recording of voice and music, commissioned music from professional studio musicians,  as well as sound design and effects for theater and radio. Contact them at MWasher@WKNE.com.

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