"Lizbits",  1890 fashion,  Ephemera,  Potpourri,  Victoriana

Lizzie’s Flower

Over the decades since Lizzie Borden’s death in 1927, the pansy has become the flower associated with her.  She herself never claimed that this was her favorite, and we have only the well-known photograph of her wearing the pansy brooch at her throat as any indication that she liked the flower.  Whether it was a favorite of Lizzie’s or merely a favorite blossom of the era cannot be known with any certainty.  Postcards, other ephemera, jewelry, household decorations, needlework, painted china, and such are all lavished with pansies.  It was a sentimental favorite, probably second only to blue forget-me-nots.  Violets, which signify faithfulness, and rosebuds of varying colors were other flowers most often seen.  The Language of Flowers was a popular code of the times, of which most ladies were very knowledgeable.  Pansies, from the French “pensees” means “thoughts”.  Naturally this was an ideal flower to associate with card sending and gift-giving.  There is a very good possibility that Lizzie’s pansy brooch was a gift given to her by a lady friend of close acquaintance.  Lizzie seemed to have a great many dresses in her closet which featured blue, so perhaps the blue-violet shades of pansies appealed to her for that reason.  Another well-know name for the tiny johnny-jump up, a diminuative pansy cousin, was “heart-ease”.  The motif was very popular in handwork for ladies of the time.  A lady reporter who wrote about Lizzie’s neat bedroom mentions a pale blue coverlet worked in embroidered flowers by Lizzie.  Too bad she did not mention what kind of flowers!  Today a vase of silk pansies is kept in Lizzie’s bedroom on Second Street, a Victorian oil painting of pansies hangs above her bed and pansies are always planted in the garden at #92.

Here is a poem by Louisa Don Carlos, born in 1874, one of many Victorian verses about the beloved pansy.

O give me not red roses,
That early dews have wet!
They speak to me of kisses
That are remembered yet.
O bring me not white roses,
That summer winds have drest!
For once I placed white roses
Upon a quiet breast.
But bring me purple pansies
If so you wish to please,
For them I have affection;
For pansies are “heart’s ease”.

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