The matrimonio Dionne They were shocked when the doctor announced that five girls were expecting.
Their lives had already been focused on the complexity of caring for their other five children, so the outlook with 10 offspring did not look very flattering.
The family did not have enough resources to provide them with care, clothing, food, education and, in general, everything necessary for their growth.
The government of Canada at the time took the custody of the little ones And she made a decision that continues to scandalize the world today: she exhibited the five sisters as if they were part of a zoo. The attraction of an eccentric fair.
An infamous entertainment.
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Born in the middle of the Great Depression
Oliva Dionne he was the father and breadwinner of the home. His work as a gravel hauler was barely enough to feed his wife Elzire and their five children.
The panorama changed, and not exactly for the better, on May 28, 1934 when he saw that he became the father of premature quintuplets.
What am I going to do with all those babies?
The delivery was attended by the doctor Allan Roy Dafoe. He arrived at the family farm and little by little he picked up the little girls in his arms, who, according to the records, marked on the scale between one and two kilos each.
“What am I going to do with all those babies?” Mom Elzire said, in statements quoted by the ‘New York Post’ newspaper.
His concern was not in vain: the strongest aftermath of the Great Depression was just being felt. The support of five children, which until now had been achieved with ‘blood and sweat’, doubled from one moment to the next.
Dr. Dafoe was also perplexed. As it was an unusual situation for those years, the doctor left the house and told how many people he met on the way that the little ones had been born.
Residents of Corbeil, Canada, they headed to the farm, where electricity and utilities were zero.
The event reached the ears of the press and journalists from different parts of the country moved their cameras, recorders and lights to register the babies, according to the newspaper ‘The Washington Post’.
‘They come with bread under their arms’
The curious not only came to see the babies: several gave them diapers, milk, clothes, toys and even an incubator.
Given the volume of people fascinated by witnessing a ‘miracle’ in times of little hope, it is said that Mr. Oliva installed an autograph booth at the entrance of the residence.
The controversial strategy was given to try to raise funds, but other proposals followed: some wanted him to auction the bed in which their daughters were born and others invited him to the ‘Chicago World’s Fair’, one of the most popular fairs of the time.
He accepted the last option: he would expose Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie y Marie in a booth at the fair in the United States.
After all, as the popular adage goes, quintuplets came with bread under their arms and the Dionne family would not have to worry about money. At the time, as evidenced by the father himself with his craft autograph stall, he had raised an unusual sum.
Beyond the atrociousness of thinking of babies as protagonists of shows, the quintuplets struggled to survive as they presented some medical complications. They lost weight.
Doctor Dafoe and the nurses surrounded the room trying to keep the little ones alive.
#OTD in 1934, the Dionne Quintuplets are born in Corbeil, Ontario.
In 1935, the Ontario government passes an Act to make them wards of the Crown. The government & others then turn them into a tourist attraction
📷LAC 3191913 (Premier Hepburn with the Quintuplets) pic.twitter.com/0B60cLa08x
— Craig Baird (@CraigBaird) May 28, 2021
The custody fight
The father of the quintuplets, according to the aforementioned media, gave up the idea of the fair when he noticed the state in which they were. As it was impossible to cancel the contract signed by retaliation, he decided to leave custody for two years in the hands of the Red Cross.
The entity would not have to give explanations to the ‘Chicago World’s Fair’ for not attending with the babies. In addition, he promised to build a space equipped with medical equipment to care for them and monitor their growth.
They created a trust that, according to the New York Post, received donations and money from the press. In exchange for this they were photographed repeatedly.
Somehow, the controversial show took place.
With the excuse that the girls were being exploited, the government of Canada unexpectedly assumed custody in 1935 and gave the care to Dr. Dafoe.
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They lived in a hospital house equipped for their survival.
“It was shown to them four times a day. Before and after the morning nap and, again, before and after the night nap, ”he wrote Sarah Miller, en su libro ‘The Miracle & Tragedy of the Dionne Quintuplets’.
“If a girl was unwell, the nurses would secretly show another of her sisters, making sure everyone left believing they had seen the five babies,” Miller said.
Under those routines they grew up. The circus was erected as the five Dionnes clung to the world with the utmost of their efforts. The nurses became her family as hundreds of strangers came to see them.
Their popularity soared that, just like during the first days on the farm, they captured the attention of the press and the media as ‘Time’.
The show ‘helped’ life win over death
“We had everything we wanted, everything within the limits of our knowledge and imagination. They treated us like princesses. We were the center of attention, ”said the sisters in their memoir ‘We were five’.
For 1943When they were nine years old, the Dionnes’ father grew weary of the abuse and delegitimized the authorities. According to the media at the time, he accused the government of exploiting them economically.
He managed to get custody back.
The curtain closes on the quintuplets
They didn’t treat us like girls
The quintuplets lived much of their adolescence in their parents’ home. However, as they later revealed, they were subjected to mistreatment by their parents.
“They didn’t treat us like girls. We were his servants, slaves. He was not human, “he confessed Anette, one of the quintuplets, in conversation with ‘The New York Times’.
When they came of age they left their parents’ house and claimed the money from the trust.
Today in 1934 near Callander, Ontario, Canada, the Dionne quintuplets are born to Oliva and Elzire Dionne; they will be the first quintuplets to survive infancy. pic.twitter.com/dVQ2yEI6uQ
— the painter flynn (@thepainterflynn) May 28, 2021
Emilie, at just 20 years old, he died of epilepsy. Marie He passed away at the age of 35.
The remaining three filed a lawsuit against the government and obtained a compensation of 4 million Canadian dollars (more than 12 billion Colombian pesos under the current exchange rate), according to the ‘New York Post’.
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In 2001, Yvonne he lost his life to cancer and left his two sisters, Annete y Cécile.
They currently live in Canada. They are 87 years old.
Part of his memories rest in the Callander Bay Heritage Museum. Only now they are not the protagonists in the flesh: the images and illustrations show their lives.
CBC Sudbury News:Surviving Dionne quintuplets to visit birth home after two decades: The two surviving Dionne quintuplets will visit the log cabin where they were born for a ceremony on Sunday to mark their birth. https://t.co/DI7Ctddju5 pic.twitter.com/sOWgRiU2WS
— What’s Up In Sudbury (@WhatUpInSudbury) August 5, 2018
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