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Because government is evil, that’s why

dionne quintuplets

In times like these, when there’s so much bustle and turmoil and upheavel in my life, I often think, “hey, what the hell happened to the Dionne quintuplets, anyhow?” Because, let’s face it, my head isn’t wired up too good.

The Dionne quints were born on May 28, 1934 on a little farm outside of Moosetesticle, Ontario. They were the first identical quintuplets known to survive infancy, and it was a close run thing. They were two months premature. Their father was a poor man with five children already and suddenly found himself with ten of the hungry little bastards in the thick of the Great Depression.

There was a world’s fair going on in Chicago at that moment — the Century of Progress Exhibition — and Dionne (reluctantly, says Wikipedia) signed a contract to exhibit the quints, as soon as they were strong enough, in a special pavilion. The Canuckian public howled with outrage and the Ontario government took custody the following year, to protect the babies from exploitation.

Then they built a special amusement park called Quintland for the girls and their caretakers, so visitors could come watch them play behind mesh screens. I shitteth thee not. Six thousand people a day filed past to watch five little girls not get exploited by their parents. Viewing was free, but the gift shop (!) and general flow of visitors to Ontario netted an estimated revenue take of $51 million over the years. Then there were the movies and newsreels and product endorsements.

Their mother never gave up fighting to get them back. And I damn well don’t blame her. If I blew five watermelons out my hoo-hoo one dark and stormy night, I would expect ALL MANNER of earthly reward. She won custody eventually, but by this time they were nine years old.

Nine. They’d never gone to school or done chores or played with other children or seen a member of the family. They’d barely left their little wire mesh freak show at all. They’d known nothing but nurses and the noisy shadows moving in the darkened space behind the wire.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t work out too good. Nothing did, ever after. I’m guessing, considering B.F. Skinner and all, they were just this side of squirrel-poop crazy.

They never adjusted to family. One by one, the quints died. All the ones who lived long enough developed epilepsy. They were desperately poor when the surviving three finally won a settlement of $4 million Canuckian, in 1998. It’s down to Cecile and Annette now.

Isn’t that a heartwarming tale of government stewardship?

Further reading: the CBC, Wikipedia and a short Real Media clip from the Canadian Film Board.

November 15, 2007 — 7:46 pm
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