hen they were born on May 28, 1934, weighing a grand total of just over 13 pounds, no set of quintuplets had lived longer than 50 minutes. Overnight, Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne captivated the world, defying medical history with every breath they took.
In an effort to protect them from hucksters and showmen, the Ontario government took custody of the Dionnes’ baby girls, sequestering the quintuplets in a private, custom-built hospital across the road from their family — and then in a stunning act of hypocrisy, proceeded to exploit the children for the next nine years. Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie became a bigger tourist attraction than Niagara Falls, oogled through one-way screens by sight-seers as they dug in their sandbox and splashed in their wading pool.
While their parents fought to reunite the family, the five identical sisters soared to stratospheric fame, their faces adorning everything from Musterole chest rub to Baby Ruth candy bars.
By age four they had starred in three Hollywood feature films. Even Shirley Temple had her own set of Dionne quintuplet dolls.
Theirs was the most publicized childhood in history, yet sifting though the vast troves of archival sources — both digital and physical — is yielding new insights that are making it possible to reconstruct their unprecedented upbringing with fresh depth and subtlety. How Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie, and Marie Dionne managed to survive and eventually thrive amidst a whirlwind of controversy is a testament to their strength, resilience, and the indelible bond of their unique sisterhood.