26 Vintage Pictures of the First Quintuplets Known to Have Survived Infancy
Annette, Emilie, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie became the sensation of the 1930s after they were born at Corbeil, Ontario, to parent Oliva and Elzire Dionne on 28 May 1934. With only two previous cases on record, they were the only quintuplets known to have survived for more than a few days. This miracle, plus their natural baby cuteness, the poverty of their French Canadian parents, and the controversy surrounding their guardianship, aroused worldwide attention.
Fearing private exploitation, the Ontario government took them away from their parents and placed them in a specially built hospital, dubbed the "Quintland" under the care of Dr Allan Roy Dafoe, who had delivered them.
Their mother, Oliva Dionne, fought for 9 years to regain them. In those 9 years, they became Canada's biggest tourist attraction and a $500 million asset to the province. More than 3 million people trekked to "Quintland" to watch the 5 babies at play behind a one-way screen.
In the 1930s, Hollywood fictionalized their story in three movies. Dozens of commercial endorsements swelled their trust fund to nearly $1 million.
A reunion with the family in November 1943 was not successful. Eventually the quintuplets moved to Montréal.
Three of the quintuplets — Annette, Cecile and Marie—married but later divorced. Emilie, an epileptic, entered a convent and died in August 1954 during a seizure.
The four remaining sisters told their own bitter story in We Were Five, published in 1965. Five years later, in February 1970, Marie died from what was apparently a blood clot in the brain. The remaining three shared the final instalment of the much-depleted trust fund in 1979.
In 1997, in their book Family Secrets: The Dionne Quintuplets’ Own Story, co-authored by Jean-Yves Soucy, Annette, Cecile, and Yvonne claimed that their father had sexually abused them. In March 1998, the Ontario government announced that it would pay the three women $4 million in compensation for the 9 years they were on display at a tourist theme park. Three years later Yvonne died of cancer. Not until September 1987 was another set of quints — this time two boys and three girls— was born in Canada.