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The Dionne Quintuplet's Story and My Mother's Cherished Doll Namesake

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Dionne Quintuplet Doll named Annette

Dionne Quintuplet Doll named Annette

Love of Dolls

To her dying day, my mother cherished her Dionne Quintuplet doll named Annette, which also became a part of my memories growing up because of seeing it from my earliest years. Annette, plus the little wicker cradle, graced her bedroom in our home.

That special doll had been given to my mother when she was still a little girl, and she had kept it all the days of her life. She robustly played with it when she was young, and it bears the scars of those joyful times. With all of the playful use through the years, Annette's doll eyes had become crazed and were a bit scary looking to me when I was young. There are cracks in her molded head and some wear and tear on other parts of her body, as well.

My grandmother had sewn clothes for her, and at one time, she had many different outfits according to the stories I had heard from my mother. All that now remains is a jumper or pajama and a robe in addition to some knitted little booties.

My mother always loved dolls and was sorely disappointed that I was more of a tomboy when I grew up. Back in those days, I much preferred being outside, climbing a tree, riding a bicycle, drawing a picture, or reading a book than spending my precious time playing with dolls.

My niece, who also remembers growing up and seeing the Dionne Quintuplet doll and wicker carriage at her grandma's house, now has ownership of this cherished doll. That and the bronzed baby shoes are just some of the family items that will be nice for her to have and hopefully keep in the family.

The Dionne Quintuplets

People worldwide became fascinated with this newsworthy event, the birth of identical girl quintuplets on May 28, 1934, in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Dafoe, with the help of two midwives, delivered the quints who were two months premature. The largest baby girl was only 3 pounds and 4 ounces.

The Dionne Quints were the first known identical females to be born and survive, and this was long before the days of in vitro fertilization, where multiple births have since become more commonplace. What subsequently happened to them would probably never be allowed to occur in this day and age.

After they were only four months of age, the Dionne Quintuplets were taken away from their parents and made wards of the Ontario government for the next nine years under the Dionne Quintuplet's Guardian Act of 1935.

Mitchell Hepburn with Dionne Quintuplets

Mitchell Hepburn with Dionne Quintuplets

Media Frenzy

A media frenzy began recording their every movement and milestone. An entire tourist industry was built by the Ontario government and Dr. Dafoe revolving around the little quintuplets.

The government built a nine-room nursery across the street from their birthplace. Soon about 6,000 people a day could view the girls via an observation room.

Little Yvonne, Annette, Marie, Cecile, and Emilie were dressed identically and graced the cover of Life Magazine several times when that magazine only cost 10 cents.

Various advertisements, such as ones for Quaker Oats and Karo syrup, featured the Dionne Quintuplets. Published picture books, as well as calendars and postcards, kept their images in the public eye. Spoon sets and cereal bowls had the girl's names on them. Eventually, movie films portrayed the famous Dionne Quints.

Dolls were made, and many children besides my mother would have received them as gifts. They came in various sizes, and probably the best-known manufacturer of them was by Madame Alexander.

My mother's doll is around 19 inches long, and the head, arms, and legs are all movable. The eyes open and close depending upon if Annette is upright or supine. Her size is almost like that of a real baby. Many little girls, in addition to my mother, would have liked playing with these dolls.

With the media attention focused on the Dionne Quintuplets for so many years of their early lives, this would have continually helped to spur the purchase of products labeled with their names.

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

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

Exploitation of the Dionne Quintuplets

These darling little girls were never allowed to live normally. They lived in a fishbowl environment for all of their early years.

Quintland, as it became known, generated millions of dollars for the Canadian government, and Dr. Dafoe also profited. The Canadian government supposedly made about a half-billion dollars from the promotion of the Dionne Quintuplets! The girls never earned a dime!

After nine years of fighting to get custody of their quintuplets back, the Dionne sisters reunited with the rest of their family, but this also did not end happily. Abuse of the girls allegedly took place. As soon as they were able, at age 18, the Dionne quintuplets left their home, never to return.

Dionne quintuplets, accompanied by Mrs. Olive Dionne & Frere Gustave Sauve, take part in a program of religious music at Lansdowne park, during the five day Marian Congress which prayed for peace & celebrated the centenary of the Ottawa archdiocese.

Dionne quintuplets, accompanied by Mrs. Olive Dionne & Frere Gustave Sauve, take part in a program of religious music at Lansdowne park, during the five day Marian Congress which prayed for peace & celebrated the centenary of the Ottawa archdiocese.

Where the Dionne Quintuplets were Born

Story of the Dionne Quintuplets


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 03, 2021:

Hi Amy,

The Dionne Quintuplet story is indeed a sad one. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Amy on March 03, 2021:

I had heard of the Dionne Quintuplets but never this sad story. What a shame.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 19, 2018:

Hi Jenny Chive,

Nice if you have the same doll. Hope it is in better condition than the one that my mother had for many years.

JennyChive on January 18, 2018:

I think i have this doll..

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 21, 2015:

Hi Patricia,

From what you wrote, you obviously had a lot of fun playing with your bisque doll over the years. Playing with paper dolls was fun and glad we both had that experience.

Sending hugs and blessings your way also.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on August 21, 2015:

O Peggy I could hear the tenderness in your voice as you recalled your Momma's love for the special doll. And walking with you as you remembered your childhood dolls and paper dolls brought many memories of my own. One bisque doll in particular was a favorite of mine....she has not weathered the years very well as I played with her often.

Hoping all is good with you...thanks for the memories.

Please know that hugs and blessings are on the way via many Angels. ps

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2015:

Hi michelle,

I just took a look and cannot find a maker's mark on the doll unless it would have been on the head where part of it has chipped off which you can see on the photos. Good luck with your search for one with a mark.

michelle on January 20, 2015:

I wanted to ask if the doll of the quints that you have from your mom has a makers mark? Thanks,I cant find her anywhere.My email is robotica1@aol.com.I would love to find one like yours .thx michelle

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2013:

Hi Hyphenbird,

I am happy to hear that this hub brought smiles to your face and memories of your mother as well as the Dionne Quintuplets. Thanks for your comment.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on February 13, 2013:

Hi Peggy. My Mama loved dolls also. I still have one of her favorites. Your Hub brought me smiles as I remembered Mama and those Quints. Thank you.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2013:

Hi Rebecca,

I believe that I linked that hub you wrote about Babyland General Hospital to my hub about the Cabbage Patch Kids Dolls. It sounds like a great tour. Thanks for your comment on this hub about the Dionne Quintuplet Doll.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2013:

Hi moonlake,

I agree from everything that I have heard or read about the Dionne Quintuplets that they did not have anything like a normal family life. It is sad. My mother certainly loved her special doll all the days of her life. All of the promotional work regarding the Dionne Quints obviously worked! I see on Ebay and Amazon that there are still collectors out there wishing to acquire them. Thanks for your comment, vote and the share.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on February 13, 2013:

What a lovely Hub on dolls. It is so neat that your mother still has that doll. I live near Babyland general hospital, where the Cabbage Patch kids were born. It is a great tour, I even posted a Hub about it.

moonlake from America on February 13, 2013:

So sad about the Dionne Quintuplets it's a good thing they had each other because they really didn't have anyone else to love them. Enjoyed your hub and the story of your mother's doll. Voted up and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 20, 2011:

Hi SanneL,

Nice to hear that you enjoyed this hub about my mother's Dionne Quintuplet doll and my history with dolls (which is not the longest). Ha! Perhaps you should do a hub about your doll, Benny? Thanks for your comment and votes.

SanneL from Sweden on December 20, 2011:

What a lovely hub!

I was never a doll person. However I had one doll. I had named her Benny?!

She is still with me today. Same as Anette, my Benny's eyes had opened and closed at first, but later on my father had to glue them put, since they started to fall out. Since then, Benny's eyes become weird and were a bit scary looking.

This hub brought back some fond memories.

Voted up and beautiful!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 13, 2010:

Hello Sally's Trove,

Obviously you were a doll lover if you have kept them all of this time. Thanks for commenting about my mother's favorite Dionne Quintuplet one named Annette. Will we be seeing future hubs about some of your dolls?

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on November 13, 2010:

Peggy, I haven't looked at my childhood dolls for decades. They are carefully packed away, at this point for what purpose I don't know. You've inspired me to take them out of their boxes and look into their history, as you did with Annette. Thanks for the wonderful journey into the past.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 04, 2010:

Hi Micky,

The Dionne Quintuplets had a hard life if that is what you are referring to with your comment. As to the dolls...my mother really did like dolls and especially this one called Annette that will soon be passed on to my niece when she next visits. Thanks for the visit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 04, 2010:

Hi Stephanie H,

The Dionne Quintuplet story is a sad one indeed. Hope the two surviving quints and their heirs get some of that money that they should have been paid many years ago. My mother would have loved playing with me and dolls when I was growing up. Alas, like you, I was a tomboy. I was also given china dolls from my maternal grandmother which we mailed off to an aunt and uncle who have kids and grandkids. Hopefully someone in that family will value them more than just for the money they might bring. Thinking back to the paper dolls...guess I liked those best. That was a looooooooooong time ago! Haha!

Micky Dee on November 04, 2010:

Thank you Peggy. The hub is much more than the title implies. God bless Dear!

Stephanie Henkel from USA on November 04, 2010:

Hi Peggy,

I enjoyed your hub about dolls even though I was a tomboy who didn't care much about dolls growing up. I did play with paper dolls, though, and at one point made clothes for a little china headed doll my mother gave me. My mother and aunts gave me many beautiful dolls which I no longer have. Now I buy dolls for my granddaughters who are also tomboys! Maybe dolls are really better toys for women than for little girls?

The Dionne quints were still occasionally in the news when I was growing up -- what a sad story!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 03, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

That was quite a life the Dionne quintuplets had for the beginning years of their lives spent in the public eye! Yes, I believe that my niece will cherish the doll named Annette just like my mother did. Thanks for the comment.

Cheryl on November 02, 2010:

Another interesting and informative hub with lovely photos. It is really great that your Mother adored Annette her favorite doll for such a long time. It was a sad and disappointing life the way the Dionne quintuplets had to live. Annette is a beautiful doll that your niece will treasure like your Mother did for many more years.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2010:

Hi Mike,

Glad that you found this hub about dolls and especially my mother's special doll of interest. As you so nicely stated..."Heirlooms are a peek inside the mind and heart and soul of the folks that enjoy and appreciate them." Thanks for the comment.

Mike Lickteig from Lawrence KS USA on November 01, 2010:

I am always fascinated by the things we treasure throughout our lives, whatever they may be. Heirlooms are a peek inside the mind and heart and soul of the folks that enjoy and appreciate them. This was an amazing look at your youth and family, and I thank you for letting us share in your memories. This was truly beautiful.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2010:

OK Billy...I'll be looking for a hub from you with the latest auction amounts paid for collectible dolls! Haha! Knowing you, you will research and do it.

billyaustindillon on November 01, 2010:

Peggy you may have a point there on those collectible dolls :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 01, 2010:

Hi Prasetio,

As far as finding the topic of dolls and my mother's cherished Dionne quintuplet doll named Annette...not hard as that particular doll has been around for as long as I remember. Now that my mother died, I am passing some things on to people who might wish to cherish the things that she cared about and by writing these hubs, I am also preserving them for my memory when the things are out of my sight. Glad that you enjoyed this and thanks for your comment.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 01, 2010:

Dear, Peggy. I love this hub, very original. How do you find great topic like this one. Good story and I found vintage dolls inside this hub. Thanks for showing us this, beautiful! I can't wait to vote up.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 31, 2010:

Hi Billy,

Somehow I don't think of you as keeping up with the latest (or even past) dolls that were/are in demand. Now...if they passed the million dollar mark in sales like some of the art masterpieces you have written about...all that would change. :-)

billyaustindillon on October 31, 2010:

I have one niece so I need to keep to to date on dolls - though you know I don't :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 31, 2010:

Hello Sa`ge,

Happy to hear that you enjoyed this hub about dolls and especially my mother's favorite doll, Annette. Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 31, 2010:

Hello Scribenet,

Like you I also had more boys to play with when I was young and dolls were not on the agenda. Your rock climbing sounds like fun. Tree climbing was our main entertainment as far as scaling heights. Happy to hear that reading this hub about my mother's cherished Dionne qunituplet doll, Annette, it brought back such happy memories for you. Thanks for letting me know by way of this comment. :-)

Sa`ge from Barefoot Island on October 31, 2010:

this is a beautiful hub, so wonderful. thank you, i so enjoyed this. :D hugs :D

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on October 31, 2010:

This is a wonderful Hub Peggy! The pictures of Annette in her clothes made by your grandmother are priceless! I can see why you have kept her and wish her to live on in your family.

Thanks, also for reminding me of the paper dolls. I seem to recall playing with them and this Hub brought back those memories!

I did play with dolls and tea sets when I was alone, but in company I could be found scaling rocks and wrecking my clothes in the process, since there were more boys than girls in the area I grew up in!

My favorite was a doll I remember that was won for me at a fair...she had pasted on hair which I washed and therefore she had a lopsided tuft...but I loved her anyway! Unfortunately, all my dolls have been long gone!

As you can see, you took me down memory lane! Thanks!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2010:

Hi Celesta,

As to my mother's Dionne quintuplet doll Annette being well kept...it was certainly not put on a shelf, but well played with through the years. Not in pristine shape, but it was loved and cherished. My niece wants it of which I am happy and it will soon pass into her hands. Thanks for your comment.

Celesta on October 30, 2010:

A beautiful doll, well kept. Like you, back in the day, I would rather be outside playing or reading. Thanks for sharing. You have a treasure of keepsakes.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2010:

Hi reddog1027,

It seems that we both had similar tastes in playing with dolls...or not, more accurately. As to the Dionne Quintuplets and all the publicity about their every move, it was quite the rage back then. It is no wonder your mother told you stories about the Dionne Quintuplets just as my mother did in telling me. For most youngsters, it is now just a part of history of which they may, or may not know. Thanks for the visit.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

So...you have a real living doll amidst all the others, right? (Smile) One of my mother-in-laws friends loved teddy bears. When they were both living in a senior retirement center I got to see Fanny's apartment one day and teddy bears of all sizes were literally everywhere! I will always remember Fanny and her love for teddy bears. If your wife has that many dolls, she will probably be remembered in the same way.

reddog1027 from Atlanta, GA on October 30, 2010:

I like you was never a doll person. Not that my mother did not try. I also remember my mom talking about the Dionne quints and their life in a fish bowl. Thanks for an interesting hubs and a walk down memory lane.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 30, 2010:

It seems like she collects all kinds. They dominate the household.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 30, 2010:

Hello dahoglund,

Learning about the Dionne Quintuplets in more detail was interesting but also sad. Only 2 of them are alive today. Apparently they are trying to get some of that mega-money that was earned by "using" them but of which none went to them directly. Amazing! What type of dolls does your wife collect? My collections were books but even those I am starting to re-read and cull these days. Thanks for the comment.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 30, 2010:

It seems to me I have seen dolls like that one, however I don't pay much attention to dolls. My wife collects dolls for reasons unknown to me.Interesting history of the Dionne Quintuplets. I have heard of tehm but didn't know much about them.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2010:

Hello Happyboomernurse,

So very happy to hear that this hub about dolls and my mother's special one, Annette, one of the Dionne Quintuplet dolls transported you back to your innocent childhood days. "Those were the days my friend, I thought they'd never end..." Looking in the mirror...they were quite some time ago. Haha! Appreciate your comment as always.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 29, 2010:

Hi Kaie,

As popular as Shirley Temple was and the sale of dolls looking like her, apparently the Dionne Quintuplet dolls and memorabilia were even greater in sales. Not too surprising considering the years of ongoing publicity! Nice that you still have and cherish your mother's doll. Thanks for your comment.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on October 29, 2010:

Ah, Peggy, you've done it again-tugged at my heart strings with this beautifully written story about dolls, a treasured family heirloom and the Dionne Quintuplets.

I, too, was a tomboy, but I did have one treasured doll- Patty Play Pal who was just my size and looked like my identical twin.

Thanks for another wonderful trip back to the innocent days of childhood.

Kaie Arwen on October 29, 2010:

Simply gorgeous........... I only have one of my mother's dolls; a Shirley Temple. These were beautiful, and I cherish mine. Thanks for this! Kaie

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