Yvonne, Annette, Cécile, Émilie and Marie were the first set of quintuplets known to live through infancy.
But that one fact that made them so unique saw them imprisoned in a ‘human zoo’.
More than three million tourists visited “Quintland” during the 1930s, watching the girls play and learn and grow up through one-way glass. The sisters were used as an attraction and also for science experiments.
This is their story.
It was the end of May in 1934 and five girls were born to parents in Ontario, Canada. Their mother, Elzire Dionne, suspected she was carrying twins. She never expected quintuplets.
Later, it was confirmed the five identical girls were from a single egg. It became a media storm.
The girls were born two months premature and, at four months, they were taken from their parents and became Wards of The King. The government deemed the parents unfit to ensure the girls' survival, however, there was no problem with the girls' three older brothers who were left in the care of Elzire and her husband, Oliva-Edouard.
In the eyes of the government, the girls were a tourist opportunity and a science experiment all in one.
A nursery was built especially for the five girls and their caregivers. It was guarded by police and run by nurses. There was an 'outdoor' playground, which was enclosed with one-way screens. Visitors could observe the girls as they played, without being seen. The children were brought into the playground for thirty minutes, three times a day, and the entire nursery was surrounded by seven-foot-high barbed wire.