Borden Family

Shining a little light on Emma Borden- Her school days at Wheaton Female Seminary

It was with great excitement that the Borden community learned of Emma’s school time at Wheaton Female Seminary on the Lizzie Borden Forum this month.  Forum member, and Borden scholar Kristin Pepe of Belchertown, Massachusetts had followed up a hunch which proved to be correct.  emmayoungfix.jpgLeonard Rebello, a leading authority and author of Lizzie Borden, Past and Present had surmised back in 1991 that Lizzie had probably gone to either Mount Holyoke or Wheaton Female Seminary but had not pursued an investigation. 

A number of young ladies from Fall River attended the nearby Norton institution during Emma’s time there, due perhaps in part to the recommendation of the Rev. Eli Thurston, the pastor of the Central Congregational Church who was on the Board of Trustees at Wheaton during Emma’s time there. 

The campus today is a beautifully- landscaped and well-maintained place with a few of the old buildings existing from Emma’s school days.

Most notably is Mary Lyon Hall where Emma would have attended some lectures on the second floor.  Mary Lyon may also be known to many as the force behind the movement for education for women in New England and Mount Holyoke’s curriculum.  She played a crucial role in Wheaton’s focus and  formulation of curriculum. 


Two visits made this month by Len Rebello, Shelley Dziedzic, and Stefani Koorey  revealed a fascinating glimpse of life at Wheaton as it must have been experienced by Emma Borden.  So endearing were the vignettes of school life, the many photographs of friends, teachers, and other ephemera of her time that clearly a comprehensive article, lavishly illustrated was in order to share this material with the Borden Community. 

On Wednesday, August 1, The Hatchet, a periodical devoted to Borden studies will debut a special feature article which will paint a comprehensive picture of life at Wheaton, female seminaries, and Emma Borden’s days at Wheaton.  The Hatchet may be downloaded online or purchased in color or black and white through

Although this exciting discovery may not have bearing directly on solving the Borden mystery, it does shed light on the shadowy figure of Lizzie Borden’s older sister.  Knowledge unshared is knowledge wasted, and many thanks go to Kristin Pepe and the staff of Wheaton Archives who so generously shared with all of us. 

A window through time, Wheaton Lecture Room, Mary Lyon Hall


Wheaton Female Seminary in the 1860’s


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