Mondo means World. The word originated quite recently (1961) when an Italian film was made titled Mondo Cane, or ‘dog’s world.’ It has since become an informal expression used in reference to something that is remarkable and very striking—as in This is going to be a mondo weird hurricane season.
According to The Glossary of Buddhist Terms, in Japanese Mondo means “questions and answers; short, pithy dialogue between Zen masters and disciples.”
It is a great word.
And Lizzie Borden is a mondo great subject.
For someone who died in 1927, Lizzie Borden is still very much with us. She is present in popular culture—as evidenced by her likeness as a quality bobble head doll, her face appearing on the center of a poker chop (get it?) card protector sold on eBay, as the subject of several songs (“You Can’t Chop Your Poppa,” “Lizzie Borden” by country music composer Ron Ecker, and “Lizzie Borden” by the Dolomites), as well as being the subject for avant-garde artists worldwide. Her likeness appears on purses, mugs, t-shirts, teddy bears, baby bibs, backpacks, clocks and postage stamps.
Lizzie Borden is also the subject of two operas, a TV movie, an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, at least twelve plays, two ballets, and two musicals! All this for a woman who tried to live her life after her acquittal as a private person, shunning the press and any public attention paid her, never speaking about the case that made her a household word.
And yet, with all her notoriety, and probable shunning by the locals in her home town after the trial, Lizzie Borden chose to live in the small industrial mill town of Fall River, Massachusetts, her entire life.
Lizzie’s life spanned sixteen Presidents, although she was sixty years old before women were granted the right to vote. She was born during the first year of the Civil War and lived into the Roaring Twenties. Never marrying, Lizzie’s recorded interests included a devotion to animals and a love of theatre. She was a close friend for some time of the great theatrical tragedienne and silent film star Nance O’Neil. Following her acquittal, Lizzie traveled quite a bit, and even attended the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893, during the time that America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes, was active.
Lizzie Borden lived through some of this country’s greatest changes and historical moments: the Civil War, the assassinations of both Lincoln and McKinley, the Great Chicago Fire, the Battle of Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee Massacre, WWI, the creation of Mothers Day, and the invention of the typewriter, the telephone, the motion picture camera, the Model T, and the radio. She probably read with interest the news about the sinking of the Titanic and later the Scopes Trial, and she lived just long enough to hear about Lindbergh’s successful non-stop flight across the Atlantic.
So why wouldn’t a blog exist devoted to all things Lizzie?
Mondo Lizzie Borden is not a site that takes the brutal hatchet murders of Andrew and Abby Borden for granted, or assumes the position that these two victims were in any way responsible for their deaths. We are not attempting to make a martyr out of Lizzie or revel in the vileness and depravity of the crimes. However, since Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the crimes by a jury of her peers, thus making the murders technically unsolved (even if this kind of “unsolved” reminds us of the OJ Simpson case), we cannot resist participating, nay leading the way, in the discussion of this enigmatic woman who lived her life without definitively answering the one question on everyone’s mind: did she or didn’t she?
I am both the editor and the publisher of The Hatchet: A Journal of Lizzie Borden & Victorian America, the webmaster of The Lizzie Borden Virtual Museum and Library, and the administrator of The Lizzie Borden Society Forum.
I appeared, along with my sister Kat Koorey, as an expert on the Lizzie Borden case in the 2004 Discovery documentary Lizzie Borden Had An Axe. I also appeared in several independent Lizzie Borden documentaries as a Borden historian, including the recent, Lizbeth: A Victorian Nightmare by Fall River’s Ric Rebello.
In addition, I have been the invited speaker on the topic at these venues:
2009 “Myth-busting Lizzie Borden: Facts on the Life of an Enigmatic Woman”
Fall River Historical Society, Fall River, Massachusetts (Sept. 28, 2009)
2008 “Lizzie Borden Speaks”
Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts (Oct. 30, 2008)
2008 “Lizzie Borden as Halloween Iconâ”
The True Story of Lizzie Borden Museum, Salem, MA (Oct. 29, 2008)
2007 “Lizzie Borden and the Internet”
Fall River Public Library, Fall River, Massachusetts
2006 “Lizzie Borden in Popular Culture”
Fall River Public Library, Fall River, Massachusetts
2005 “Show and Tell: The Documentary Life of Lizzie Borden”
Third Annual Fall River Lecture Series, Presented by the First Congregational Church and the Fall River Historical Society, Fall River, Massachusetts
2004 “Lizzie and the Theatre: Theatrical Representations of the Borden Case”
Second Annual Fall River Lecture Series, Presented by the First Congregational Church and the Fall River Historical Society, Fall River, Massachusetts
Interest in the history of the Borden case brought me to a love of the history of Fall River, her home town. Along with Al Lima, I am co-founder of the Fall River History Club. Most recently, I completed the index for the upcoming book Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River, for the Fall River Historical Society.