On May 28th
On May 28th, 1934 a miracle happened. The first ever quintuplets were born as they were the first to survive birth. They were five girls named Annette, Yvonne, Cecile, Emilie, and Marie. They were sometimes known as “miracle babies”. To this day only Annette and Cecile are living. An examination of how the girls were exploited , unhappy, and mistreated will prove that the impact on their lives was negative.
The Dionne Quintuplets’ journey as they were exploited is proof that the impact on their lives was negative. Annette, Yvonne, Cecile, Emile, and Marie were exploited by their doctors and the Ontario government within days of their birth. Their parents signed a contract to exhibit the girls at the World’s fair in Chicago. But the real lives of the Dionne quintuplets were largely unhappy. “On May 27, 1935, the Government of Ontario took the five sisters away from their parents. Their father signed a contract with managers for the girls to be sent to the World’s Fair in Chicago.”1 Even though he had cancelled the contract a day after he signed it, the Ontario Government took the babies away anyway. They were worried about germs and kidnappers. Elzire said to her husband Olivia, “What will people think of us? They will think we are pigs”2 .The Ontario government removed the quintuplets from their parents and gave full custody to Dr. Dafoe, also including other nurses. Custody of the five babies was taken away from their parents. The guardianship was initially for two years. Some nurses who would take care of them had to leave their care without telling the girls, which made the girls lives even more negative. “Nurses left all the time without telling us, we just thought they would come back. But when we realised they were not, it was like a mother we lost,”3 said Cecile Dionne.
Although Oliva Dionne remained part of the guardianship, the children were put under the guidance of Dr. Dafoe. The girls were no longer allowed to visit any family. A couple months after Dr. Dafoe had full custody of the Dionne Quintuplets, the government realised there was massive public interest in the sisters and proceeded to create a tourist industry around them. “When they were born . . . North Bay was just a fishing and hunting lodge. And today, there’s a four-lane highway that gets you there, and that highway was built specifically so that tourists could come down and visit the sisters.”4 The girls were made wards of the Provincial Crown, and were not allowed to visit any family until they reached the age of 18. Overall, this information on the exploited part of the Dionne Quintuplets’ life proves that the impact on their lives was negative . The Dionne Quintuplets’ childhood of unhappiness proves that the impact on their lives was negative . The girls had a playground that was surrounded with glass. It allowed visitors to view them three times a day. From the inside, the glass was covered with mesh screens to hide the viewers from the girls, but the girls could see the shadows of the visitors all the time. “It wasn’t good for the children to be like that, to be shown like that, playing naturally and knowing that other people were looking,”5 Cécile said. Every morning they got dressed together in a big bathroom, had glasses of orange juice and there vitamins, and then had to have their hair curled. They also had to say a prayer, a song was sounded, and they ate breakfast in the dining room. They only has thirty minutes to eat before the table had to be cleared. After breakfast they also played in the sunroom for thirty minutes. Then they had a fifteen-minute break, and at nine o’clock, had their morning inspection with Dr. Dafoe. They did not have any contact with anyone other then each other and the hospital staff. The main reason for removing the quintuplets from their parents custody was to make sure they had their survival. Typically they lived a highly restricted life, with a very strict timetable for every minute of the day. Regardless of the approximately 6,000 visitors that went to stare at the
girls, they had no contact with anyone from the outside world including their parents. The girls always felt uncomfortable meeting new people. “A sense of shyness was deeply rooted in all five of us. Sitting on laps, having arms around our shoulders and elbows in our ribs offended our susceptibilities. No matter if the evening was warm or chilly, we wrapped ourselves in topcoats for protection on those outings,”6 said Annette. The girls also had to do everything the doctors said. Every month they had a different timetable of activities. They had bath every day before dinner then put their pajamas on. Dinner was served at six o’clock sharp, and after dinner they had to go into the quiet playroom to say their evening prayers. Each girl had a symbol and a colour to symbolize what things belonged to them. Annette’s symbol was a maple leaf and her colour was red, Cecile’s was a turkey and green. Emilie had a tulip and white, Marie had a teddy bear and her colour was blue, and Yvonne’s was a bluebird and pink. With all the strict rules and routines, the unhappiness of the girls proves that the impact on their lives was negative. All the mistreatment the girls went through, also proves that the impact on their lives was negative. The girls were mistreated in many ways because they were forced to wear costumes and perform for the public that made a lot of people want to see more. A newsreportner named Carlo Tarini once said, “You can’t read the paper or take in the news at any time without seeing how some children are treated. This tells you that children need to be protected from any type of abuse, whether it be parental abuse, government abuse, institutional abuse, and they should be kept away from exploitation.”7 This in return brought in more money for the Ontario Government, its doctors and nurses more rich. A hospital was built for the girls across the road from there home and was named “Quintland” hoping the tourist trade might result from the news that the Quintuplets 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”8. The girls started to become a large tourist attraction, bringing in more money, than Niagara Falls was until around 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.”9
The girls also spent their whole childhood life treated like an art gallery. “Approximately 6,000 people per day visited the observation gallery that surrounded the outdoor playground to view the Dionne sisters. Ample parking was provided and almost 3,000,000 people walked through the gallery between 1936 and 1943.”10 Oliva Dionne and his wife also had there own souvenir shop and an admission store across the nursery and that area also acquired the name “Quintland”. They sold pictures the five girls, souvenirs that included framed photographs, spoons, cups, plates, plaques, candy bars, books, postcards and dolls. Ivan Spear of the Chicago’s World Fair said, “exclusive rights to pictures of the five infant daughters, newspaper pictures and movies; and to all advertising contracts that might be obtained for and with the children.”11 Olivia also sold stones from the Dionne farm that were supposed to have a magical power of fertility. “The Quintuplets brought in more than $50 million in total tourist revenue to Ontario”12 Quintland was starting to become a very big tourist attraction. Photos were always being taken of the girls, to be used for ads on items in stores to convince people to buy it and make more money. Dr. Dafoe and the government set up a tourist attraction solely around the girls. They were constantly being studied and examined. They were shown for public two to three times a day. “The whole thing was quite severe for babies and young children. Starting at six o’clock am, until six o’clock at night, we had 21 items to accomplish. A time to go to the toilet, all of that”13, said Annette. Their likenesses were used in advertisements and to sell products. “Quintland generated about $500 million in revenue and brought greater life to the small Canadian village near the city of North Bay, prompting the construction of new hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. The Dionne sisters became the planet’s most photographed children; they landed on the front pages of time and life magazines and appeared on advertisements for major companies which includes everything from Colgate Dental Cream to cough syrup, along with the fronts of postcards and other mementos. Dolls resembling the Dionne quints outsold those of Shirley Temple and four movies were made about them in the 1930s!”14 The girls were not treated like little kids, they were using them for money. “They didn’t treat us as children. We were —” Annette said. Cécile finished the sentence: “Their servants, slaves. It was not human.”15 With all the mistreatment the girls experienced while they were in Quintland, proves that the impact on their lives was negative.
The girls went through a lot of tough times in their lives, which is what caused the negativity. Being exploited, unhappy, and mistreated proves why they have negativity in their lives. They were taken away from their parents at a young age, spent their childhood life treated like an art gallery, and they were not treated like children, the Ontario Government used them to make money. Because of these things that all five girls went through, they did not get to live their lives as regular children.Overall, with all the information collected about the Dionne Quintuplets lives, being exploited from their parents, not being treated like a regular child, and using them for money proves that there lives were full of negativity.