Before invitro fertilization, multiple births were wildly uncommon. Twins and triplets were rare, so when Elzire Dionne gave birth to five babies, Annette, Cecile, Yvonne, Emilie, and Marie, in 1938, it was national news. Unfortunately, it became a national spectacle when the girls became government property.
1934- The Beginning
Elzire Dionne was just 25 years old when she gave birth to her quintuplets in Ontario, Canada. The young mother believed she was pregnant with twins because of her size. No one knew quintuplets were possible, so the birth of her daughters was heralded as something of a miracle.
The girls were born two months premature, and later genetic testing proved all the girls were identical, stemming from the same egg. Elzire reported having cramps during her third month of pregnancy and passing a "strange object", which many believe to have been a sixth baby.
Being the first set of quintuplets to live longer than a few days, taking care of the babies was something of a mystery. They were all underweight, their total combined weight was just over 13lbs, and were kept in a wicker basket, covered with heated blankets. They were set up in the kitchen in front of the stove to keep them warm. Every two hours, they were massaged with olive oil and fed a mixture of water and corn syrup.
News of the Dionne quintuplets spread quickly, with many wondering how dad, Oliva, was going to support five new babies. People from all over North America began sending supplies to the new family, who was becoming an international phenomenon.
Just days after the birth, Elzire and Oliva were approached by exhibitor's for Chicago's Century of Progress exhibition, wanting to put the girls on display. The parents agreed, but the contract was revoked before it was ever put into effect, citing issues of child exploitation.
If only those same issues were applied to the Canadian government.