The Dionnes, Part 3

Dr. Dafoe quarantined the Dionne Quintuplets “to keep the germs away.” That meant keeping people away, too – like the Quints’ parents and the rest of their family. There’s a film clip that shows the result: Jean Hersholt, who played a version of Dr. Dafoe in the three 20th Century Fox features, presents a puppy to the sisters. They’ve never seen a puppy before (dogs have germs, except when Hollywood needs a puppy scene), so the sisters are frightened and back away. It was supposed to be a cute scene. It was a disaster. They stopped the camera, probably had a talk with the girls, then started again. It clearly demonstrates their isolated existence – yet it was used in the feature.

Quintland was the world’s first theme park. It’s estimated that three million people made the trip to see the Quints in person. Often, over two miles of stop-and-go traffic “clued everyone in” that they were getting close.

The Dafoe Hospital had an outdoor playground. Surrounding it on three sides was an enclosed, horseshoe-shaped viewing area. Supposedly, the darkness inside the viewing area, coupled with screens of some sort, would make it impossible for the Quints to know that they were being observed. But the quints caught on quickly – they might not have been able to see the tourists, but they certainly could hear them.

What’s missing in the story of the Dionne Quintuplets… is a hero. Someone who rides to the rescue. Someone who says “This is wrong and it has to stop.”
  • It wasn’t Dr. Dafoe, who commandeered the quints, was celebrated by the press as a savior, and made a lot of money.
  • It wasn’t Oliva Dionne, whose initial reaction to the birth was to “sell the Quints,” in order to make a lot of money.
  • It wasn’t Father Daniel Routhier, from whom Oliva Dionne sought guidance and who suggested that, since the children were a miracle from God, 7% of the money should be given to the church.
  • It wasn’t Elzire Dionne, who had married at 16 and was the embarrassed mother of 10 at age 25.
  • It wasn’t Dr. W.E. Blatz, who headed the team from St. George’s School for Child Study at the University of Toronto, who cataloged every move the Quints made but either did not see, or did not want to see, the big picture.
  • It wasn’t Mitchell Hepburn, the premier of Ontario, who arranged for the Quints to be taken from their parents legally, via a “guardianship” act that officially gave the government and Dafoe full charge.

Yvonne, Marie, Emilie, Annette and Cecile had to become their own heroes.

They didn’t all make it through… but as this ‘behind the scenes’ production video for the TV movie “Million Dollar Babies” shows, Yvonne, Cecile, and Annette Dionne lived to tell the tale.

Quints Digitization Project
Quintland Site
Second Birthday Party (Audio)
Picture Album

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1 comment to The Dionnes, Part 3

  • Miriam Galarza

    This story makes me want to cry:( Im so angry and hurt about what these beautiful little girls had to go through. I'm so sorry.