On May 28, 1934, the Dionne quintuplets were born two months premature and had a combined weight of less than 14 pounds. Born in Ontario, Canada, the identical Dionne sisters are the first quintuplets known to survive infancy. Their parents, Oliva-Edouard and Elzire Dionne, poor farmers, already had five children when the quintuplets were born.Continue Reading
In September 1934, Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie and Marie, were removed from their parents' custody and placed under the guardianship of Dr. Allan Dafoe. A hospital, known as "Quintland," was built across the street from the Dionne farm in order to house the babies. For the next nine years, the girls lived at the hospital. It quickly became a profitable tourist attraction; where approximately 6,000 visitors each day came to watch the children play. The quintuplets followed a strict schedule, were constantly tested and studied, had infrequent visits from their parents, and seldom left the hospital. They were used for advertising Colgate, Palmolive, Quaker Oats and more.
In 1943, after a long custody battle, the girls returned to their family, which now included four younger siblings. At age 18, they left home and extinguished almost all contact with their family. In 1963, their autobiography, "We Were Five," describing their lives "at the center of a circus" was released.
Émilie, while training to become a nun, died in a convent from a seizure in 1954. Marie, separated from her husband, died in 1970 of a blood clot in the brain. Yvonne, who never married, died in 2001 of cancer. As of 2014, Annette and Cécile, both divorced, are alive.
In 1995, Yvonne, Annette and Cécile wrote in a second autobiography, "The Dionne Quintuplets: Family Secrets," that they had endured sexual abuse at the hands of their father.Learn more about Art & Literature