Book Hippo

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dionne Quntuplets

I wonder how it is that so much that appears to be happy is anything but. So easy to mistake what people do to survive as a positive.

This brings me to a photo, any photo, that I've seen of the Dionne Quintuplets. They were born in Callander, Ontario sometime in the nineteen thirties. There was no fertility drugs back then, they were natural quints.

In fact, there were six of them, three sets of twins, but the mother passed one of the babies while it was still a fetus. So she 'only' had five baby girls. They were a French-Canadian Catholic family at a time when most Canadians viewed them with suspicion.

Once it hit the newspapers that quints had been born, people started demanding that the 'special' babies be taken away from their disgusting parents. After all, they already had six children and what kind of animal was Mr. Dionne to keep getting his wife with child?

The Ontario government bent to the pressure and removed them. Built a whole hospital for them where they were cared for to the exact specifications of 'experts' who said they must be kept thin and never let outside. Very contrary to the Dionne parents who wanted chubby, active kids. But never mind, they didn't have any control over their girls.

And they were put on view. Every day hundreds of people came to Callander to see the babies. They filed by and interest never abated. As toddlers they were finally let outside to play. People watched from behind a screen, thinking the girls couldn't know they were there.

Later, when the girls grew, they wrote a book and said, they did know people were there.

But the girls grew out of cuddly toddler stage and the Dionne parents became the focus of French-Canadian interest to help them fight the prejudice against them. The parents finally got their girls back.

But by then, the quints had nothing in common with the rest of the family and as they grew up, found that because they'd been so isolated, they had no idea how to cope with simple things like money.

Then one died and it came out that all of them were epileptic but it had been kept quiet due to shame of the condition then. Another died...alone. They didn't know how to make friends, only had each other.

The last three won a four million dollar settlement but soon another one died. And then another. There's only one left now. And thank goodness it's the one who has children so she has someone for her.

It's a tragic story but what is the real tragedy? Is it that I feel joy whenever I see the photos of those sweet, magic little girls? I just don't know

1 comment:

  1. You've opened a window on something I know little about. I intend to research this fascinating story. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.