Friday, May 29, 2009


Five identical girls were born near Corbeil, Ontario, today to French-Canadian couple Oliva and Elzire Dionne. At the time, the odds of giving birth to quintuplets was 57-million-to-1 and medical experts were not aware of a case in which all quintuplets previously survived more than 50 minutes. Remember, this was 1934. This was NOT fertility drugs nor neo natal units.

They are identical and were created from one single egg cell. Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe is credited with the birth of the quintuplets. However, originally, his diagnosis of Elzire was only a "fetal abnormality". He delivered the babies with the help of two midwives, Aunt Donalda and Madam Benoit Lebel, who were retrieved by Oliva Dionne in the middle of the night. The births were registered in nearby Corbeil. The order that they were born is not known. All that is known is that the three bigger ones were born first. The babies were not weighed or measured. The quintuplets were immediately wrapped in cotton sheets and old napkins and laid in the corner of the bed. Dr. Dafoes didn't think that the babies would survive. At the time of the birth, the father could not be found and shortly after, Elzire went into shock. Dr. Dafoe thought that Elzire was also going to die, but she was better within two hours. The babies were kept in an ordinary wicker basket borrowed from the neighbors with heated blankets. They were soon brought into the kitchen and set by the open door of the stove to keep warm. One by one, they were taken out of the basket and massaged with olive oil. Every two hours, for the first twenty-four, they were only given sweetened water. By the second day they were moved to a laundry basket, which was slightly larger, and heated with hot-water bottles. They were watched constantly and often had to be roused when it seemed that they were losing life. They were then fed with seven-twenty formula. It consisted of cow's milk, boiled water, two spoonfuls of corn syrup, and one or two drops of rum for stimulant. News spread quickly and the family benefited from much assistance during the first several months. At four months, they were taken from their parents.

"Mrs. Dionne, 24 years old, and the mother of six other children, one of whom died, was stated by the physician to be in good condition," an article in the Winnipeg Free Press read on May 29, 1934. "Birth of the quintuplets, announced by Dr. Dafoe, created no great fuss on the Dionne farm, two miles from this northern Ontario settlement, which is nine miles southeast of North Bay. When reporters arrived Monday afternoon everything was quiet at the home, and the 31-year-old father was busy about his usual tasks."

The births, which came at the height of the Depression, certainly worried the Dionne family since money was already tight. However, shortly after the quintuplets were born, the parents lost control of the babies when the Ontario government appointed a board of guardians to manage their welfare. The five identical girls were put on public display and didn't even live with the rest of their family until 1943. Movies were made about them, companies used them as a hook in their advertisements, and books have been written about them. The three survivors sued the government for taking them from their parents for nine years. For a fee, one could watch them play in a fenced yard or from behind a glass. Although their parents did not have direct physical contact with them, they were close by; father sold souvenirs while mother sold 'magic rocks' from the farm for 50 cents each.

Each girl had a color and a symbol to mark what was hers. Annette's color was red with a maple leaf. Cecile's color was green and her design a turkey. Emilie had white and a tulip, while Marie had blue and a teddy bear, and Yvonne had pink and a bluebird.

Emilie, died in 1954 at age 20 of an epileptic seizure. It is said she was in the convent and was left by a sister who was to be watching her. She had a seizure, rolled over and smothered in her pillow.

Marie died at home at age 36 of a blood clot in the brain. Marie was living alone in an apartment and her sisters were worried because they hadn't heard from her in several days. One of the other sisters' husbands broke down the window and found Marie who had been dead for days. The coroner determined it was a blood clot in the brain.

Yvonne died of cancer in Montreal on June 23, 2001

Cecile is 75

Annette is 75

For videos of the girls, go to U TUBE and keyboard Dionee Quintuplets.

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