Human Exploitation - How The Dionne Quintuplets Were Abused
Exploitation Of Children
The rights of individuals or groups of human beings have been denied through exploitation by other groups of humans throughout time.
People have been enslaved by others that wished to profit from their talents or from a uniqueness that drew attention. This attention has often translated to dollars in the minds of their oppressors, leading to different varieties of slavery --
Elvis Presley, in my opinion, was a slave to Colonel Tom Parker, who exploited the singer through second rate film vehicles and other performances that did not tap his potentials.
In the book Call Me Anna, Patty Duke describes her childhood as a star and the story shows exploitation to me as well.
In 2008, a documentary showed medically suffering individuals in Indonesia and other regions, perform in "freak shows" in order to earn a living with which to support their children. Their tumors and birth defects are exploited by entertainment venue owners.
Exploitation makes money.
These women are completely destroyed psychologically.— Denise Bombardier, Interviewer of the remaining Quints in 1995
The Dionne Quintuplets and How They GrewClick thumbnail to view full-size
The First Identical Female Quintuplets
Born in May of 1934, only two of the five Dionne Quintuplets are alive in 2008. The five were, to Western Knowldege, the first identical female infants in a multiple of five anywhere in the world. They were exploited for this characteristic and further, they were sexually and financially abused.
Back in February of 1998, three of the women were still living and they turned down an offer from the Onatrio Provincial Government to pay them monthly pensions as a token repayment for government exploitation (over $50 million and in 2008 dollars. $250 million/year) of the five girls. The women were reportedly offered $1400 CAN/month each at the time, but chose to remain in Montreal, Quebec, all three living on just $490 CAN per month total. They had demanded restitution of ten million dollars for that which had been stolen from them by the government and hangers-on, but were offered only the small pension, so they declined.
As a tourist attraction, the five girls had been called by some journalists The Freak Show of the Depression.
Locations on the Dionne Timeline in Ontario Province
Miracle Quints Capture World Attention
May 28, 1934-- Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie, and Yvonne were born to poor farmers in rural Ontario near Callendar in Corbeil and survived. They were reportedly the first quints that had ever survived in North America or anywhere else. They were birthed by two midwives. The physician, a Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, arrived after all of the girls were born. Their combined weight was only 13lb 5oz or a little over 2 pounds each as premature infants by two months.
Dr. Dafoe became famous for traveling and speaking about the Dionne Quintuplets. His office from 1914 - 1943 is now part of the Callendar Bay Heritage Museum.
1934 - 1943
Daddy Dionne placed a Birth Announcement in the nearby local North Bay Newspaper and in the 21st century, North Bay Public Library is completing an online collection of information about the sisters. The Dionnes received a lot of attention, an incubator, and some free goods from the publicity.
The destitute farming parents of around age 25, Oliva and Elzire Dionne, already had five other children and had lost another one early on to death. Local rural women came to the farm at the birth of the quints and donated their breast milk in order to help the babies survive.
Declaring that the parents were unable to take care of the five new infants, the provincial government took the children under their official guardianship and placed the sisters in the care of Dr. Dafoe and Louise de Kirline as well as two other nurses.
All this could be accomplished, because the parents were poor, not well educated, and had no advocate. The government simply took control in a manner made to look legal to the parents, whose complaints were ignored. Dr. Dafoe supported the government in this, seeing his bid for fame and fortune in the quints. Nurse Kirline later stated that the doctor changed as he entered the limelight; he had proposed to her as his long time companion (he was widowed), but she declined. He became greedy and controlling.
A hospital was constructed for them across the road from the Dionnes and was named QUINTLAND in anticipation of the tourist trade that might result from the news that the historic premature quints were surviving. Large amounts of money were made that the girls and their families never received from 1936 - 1943. This includes at least $1,000,000 directly and over $50 million in tourist trade for Ontario. The girls became a larger tourist attraction, pulling in more money, than Nigara Falls until after 1943. Meanwhile, they were raised and educated by three nurses in charge of their care, while over 6,000 visitors daily viewed them through observation windows at their hospital.
The girls were also used as the logo for Karo Corn Syrup and Quaker Oats.
From 1936 - 1938, the quints appeared in several films as well: The Country Doctor, Reunion, Going on Two, Quintupland, Five Times Five, and Five of a Kind, which increased their earning power as tourist attractions. Walt Disney did a cartoon takeoff of the quints as an animated feature as well.
Living In A Zoo
See the footage below that includes scenes of the quints forced to wear costumes and perform in a zoo-like enclosure for the public.
Million Dollar Babies
Product Endorsements By The Quints - Note The Ad's Caption
Elementary and Teen Years
1943 -- In 1943 when Dr. Dafoe died, the five sisters were moved back across the road to a mansion that had been built for them and their parents. However, millions of dollars had been earned by the quints through endorsements for Karo Syrup, Quaker Oats, Palmolive Soap, Colgate Dental Cream, beauty products, and other advertisers. These funds were deposted into an account about which they were not informed. The doctor and one or more of the nurses became famous and wealthy and as adults, most of the quints died young or descended into poverty until 1998.
As teenagers, the girls were described as "shy" -- They finally reported sexual abuse as adults. During the Depression and WWII, the public viewed their lives as a fantasy into which they could escape, but as the girls aged, their lives were anything by fanciful.
1954 - At age 20, Emilie died in a convent from an eplieptic seizure. As a student for the occupation of nun, she had developed seizures and asked not to be left alone, even in her sleep. The nun that was sitting with her one night decided to leave for a short while, Emilie seized, rolled over, and suffocated in a pillow. The Dionne sisters were no longer quintuplets and began to lose popularity.
One of the nurses that cared for the five sisters was Yvonne Leroux. She also traveled the lecture circuit, as did Dr. Dafoe, and received her own radio show in New York City for a time. it is unclear how many people profited personally from the quints, while they were abused.
Colgate Toothpaste Ad
The Dionne Quints Museum is located in the sisters' childhood home at what is now the juncture of Highways 11 and 17 at Seymour St. in North Bay, Ontario.
Dionne Quints Museum
Annette, Yvonne and Cecile
Maltreatment of the women began in earnest after they rejoined the family in the 1940's. Prior to that, Ontario had taken then away as wards of the province, used in the tourism industry.
A Short Adulthood For Most Of The Quints
1954 - Emile died of a seizure while studying to become a nun.
Annette married in 1957 around age 23 and had one son, then divorced Germain Allard.
1965 -- The remaining sisters wrote a bitter autobiography called We Were Five. They were bitter with their exploitative upbringing.
Marie married and had two daughters in 1960 and 1963, but left her husband in 1964 and never filed for divorce. She died in 1970 at age 36 of a blood clot to the brain.
Cecile had 5 children, two of them being twins; and then divorced.
1998 -- CBC aired the documentary about the sisters' lives, entitled Full Circle - The Untold Story of the Dionne Quintuplets. In a series of candid interviews, the three surviving sisters told of their dysfunctional upbringing in the limelight that did not prepare them for adulthood. They described failed marriages and dark family secrets.
2001 -- Yvonne died of cancer. She never married.
November 2008 -- As of November 2008, Annette and Cecile are still living, presumably in Quebec.
The Dionne Quints Museum is located in the sisters' childhood home at what is now the juncture of Highways 11 and 17 at Seymour St. in North Bay, Ontario. In 1988, the surviving sisters visited North Bay in order to raise funds for the museum. It had changed hands two or three times and was finally moved to its present site in 1985.
It was used in the late 1980s to depict the plight of the exploited sisters and to gain them a settlement from the Ontario government. After declining the original offer in 1998, Annette and Cecile finally received a $4,000,000 settlement.
The father, Oliva Dionne, was a dirt-poor farmer before the birth of the quints. He became wealthy with them. He died in 1979.
Undercurrents of Abuse
Jean-Yves Soucy reported that Annette Dionne has long blamed the Ontario Government and the Catholic Church for the sisters' exploitation as a product from which to gain notoriety and money.
In 1995, the quint survivors alleged that their father, Oliva Dionne, had sexually abused them all for many years after they left the over-controlling influence of Dr. Dafoe. Moreover, their priest gave them no practical advise or help when they asked him for aid in this matter.
The outlined situations above were clearly abusive in different ways and Family Secrets, by Jean-Yves Soucy, is the biography that reveals the truth.
Evidence accumulated shows that the Dionne Quintuplets were controlled, exploited, and sexually and financially abused for profit, as shown in Family Secrets and the New York Times in 1995 (Reference: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/26/world/three-dionne-quintuplets-say-father-sexually-abused-them.html)
I hope that Annette and Cecile enjoy the rest of their lives very much and can gain some peace of mind in Quebec. At this writing, they are 74 years old and special celebrations are planned for them at the Dionne Quints Museum for their 75th birthday in 2009.
Bless their remaining years.
Questions & Answers
© 2008 Patty Inglish