Was Bridget Sullivan From 'Lizzie' A Real Person? The Borden Family Maid Plays A Key Role In The Story
Spoilers ahead. In the new movie Lizzie, Chloë Sevigny plays Lizzie Borden, the infamous murder suspect. But also starring in the film is Kristen Stewart, who plays the Borden family's Irish maid, Bridget. Bridget Sullivan of Lizzie was a real person, who actually was wrapped up in the crimes and in Lizzie's life. But how true is the movie to life?
Although the character of Bridget Sullivan wasn't created for the film, what was created are some details of how everything went down. When it comes to the Lizzie Borden case, people have been coming up with theories for well over a century. Borden was the primary suspect in the murders of her father, Andrew, and stepmother, Abby, and she was the only person ever put on trial. But, she was let free by the jury after a very short deliberation — possibly because she was a woman of a certain social standing, possibly because of the evidence they were given — so the case is officially unsolved.
In Lizzie, Sullivan is shown as an accomplice to Borden. The movie posits that their plan is for Borden to murder Abby, and for Sullivan to soon after kill Andrew. But, at the last minute, Sullivan gets scared and doesn't go through with it, leaving Borden to take the ax from her and also murder her father.
While it's widely believed now that Borden's motive would have been money — she was set to inherit her father's wealth, which the film shows as being threatened by a conniving uncle — the movie also presents revenge as a motive. Borden's father is shown mistreating her, and as for Sullivan's motive, the movie puts forth that he sexually abused her. In addition, Lizzie features a friendship and, later, sexual relationship between Borden and Sullivan, and their close relationship leads Sullivan to agree to participate in the murders with Borden.
But, in the real world, it's not clear that Sullivan was involved in the killing of Abby and Andrew at all. In the film, during her court testimony, she helps Borden out in a small way one last time by not revealing the truth, but in real life, her testimony, while not exactly incriminating, does not explicitly help Borden, either. Sullivan said (via Irish Central) that she was the one who first saw Abby's body after Borden asked that she go upstairs to see if Abby was home. Sullivan also said that Borden herself was upstairs at a time that would have been after Abby was already killed.
Another difference pointed out in her testimony, is that Sullivan had worked for the family nearly three years at the time of the murders, and in the film it's shown as only having been a few months. As for the sexual relationship shown in the film, there is a theory Sullivan and Borden had one, but it definitely isn't considered a fact.
It's been rumored that after the trial, Sullivan went back to Ireland on a trip that was paid for by Borden. Of course, like everything, else this is unclear. What we do know, though, is that Sullivan eventually moved to Montana, got married, and lived out her days until she died at age 66 in 1948. She is said to have never discussed the murders again.