Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Dionne quintuplets born into life of public scrutiny

May 28,1934

Elzire Dionne thought she might be having twins. But what she gave birth to that night in the farmhouse in Corbeil, Ont. was an international spectacle – five tiny girls, all identical and two months premature. The babies were delivered by Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe who became wealthy as the quintuplets’ guardian during the years they were put on public display. After emerging into the world, the tiny girls were wrapped in old sheets and blankets and laid out on the bed with their mother. They were then brought into the kitchen to be warmed by the stove and given regular massages with olive oil. Initially there were fed a formula of cow’s milk and corn syrup. But women from neighbouring village began dropping off breast milk. An incubator was ordered. And the Dionne girls became the first recorded set of quintuplets to survive infancy.

The Dionne quintuplets in bed with their mother, Elzire Dionne, in their farmhouse in Callander, Ontario on May 28, 1934. Photo by The Canadian Press

This picture, taken in June 1934, shows the farmhouse of the Dionne family near Callander, Ontario, where the famed quintuplets were born on May 28, 1934. Associated Press Photo

Official opening ceremonies of the hospital built for the Dionne Quintuplets in Callander, Ontario, September 14, 1934. Photo by John Boyd/The Globe and Mail

Dr. Allan R. Dafoe who delivered the children puts his arms around all five of the Dionne quintuplets -- Marie, Emelie, Cecile, Annette and Yvonne -- as they celebrate their first birthday in style. Bettmann/Corbis Photo

The Dionne Quintuplets: Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie, Yvonne, in 1936 when they were two year olds. Photo Courtesy The Everett Collection

The Dionne Quintuplets arrive in Toronto in 1939 for presentation to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

Elzire and Olivia Dionne stand with their quintuplets, Cecile, Yvonne, Marie, Emilie and Annette in this undated photo from The Canadian Press

The famous Dionne Quintuplets take in the sighs of New York City, October 21, 1950. Left to right, are Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne. Photo by King Features Syndicate/The Canadian Press

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to