Open Letter from the Dionne Quintuplets

Shortly after the McCaughey septuplets were born in 1997, the three surviving Dionne Quintuplets wrote a letter to Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey, cautioning them that "multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products".

Although it's probably too little, too late, it would be nice if Jon and Kate Gosselin would take their words to heart:

Dear Bobbi and Kenny,

If we emerge momentarily from the privacy we have sought all our adult lives, it is only to send a message to the McCaughey family. We three would like you to know we feel a natural affinity and tenderness for your children. We hope your children receive more respect than we did. Their fate should be no different from that of other children. Multiple births should not be confused with entertainment, nor should they be an opportunity to sell products.

Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.

We sincerely hope a lesson will be learned from examining how our lives were forever altered by our childhood experience. If this letter changes the course of events for these newborns, then perhaps our lives will have served a higher purpose.

Sincerely, Annette, Cecile and Yvonne Dionne

As published in Time Magazine, 12/01/1997


ns said...

For nine years the quintuplets lived in a sort of theme park know as "Quintland", to which about three million tourists came to observe them through a one-way screen. The little girls became a major visitor attraction for the province of Ontario, bringing in an estimated $250 million dollars per year in today's dollars (The Dionnes by Ellie Tesher).

As the sisters would later write in the book We Were Five, "There was so much more money than love in our existence. It took a long time to realize what it did to us all."

NS said...

Interesting research on the Dionne Quints by a blogger can also be found here:

Watching the second video there, all the people herding in to see them, I couldn't help but think - only difference now is the Gosselin kids come to us.

Supposedly, the darkness inside the viewing area, coupled with screens of some sort, would make it impossible for the Quints to know that they were being observed. But the quints caught on quickly - they might not have been able to see the tourists, but they certainly could hear them.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian I feel an affinity to the Dionne Quintuplets, but I only know a little of their story (their public life was well before my time). They were so well loved by the public, they really truly were.

I wonder if back in those days there were people trying to put a stop to it, tried explaining to the public that they were actually "harming" those sweet girls by loving them so much that they couldn't be allowed to have their own quiet life? And how easy it was to disregard the pleas, because dang nabbit--those kids were just too precious--the public just HAD TO consume them.

Thousands of people lined up buying tickets to view them. Just like thousands today are lining up to buy dvds, flick on the tv, rush to youtube, etc. to watch the gosselins. What did Kate say on tonight's show? Did Jon find his balls? Which kiddo puked? Did you see where they put the pee pot this time! That dang Maddy, she's gonna blow!

Everything old is new again.

I like Jon & Kate (sometimes I sway, but overall I'm ok with them), I get them and their banter. I understand somewhat why they did what they did and why they're doing what they're doing. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe they felt there were no other alternatives--aside from scrimping and financial desperation and financial uncertainty and having to put their trust in others to help them "get by".

Going public in this way probably does seem like a blessing from God to them. They live a very full and bountiful life (materially). Their life is far from mundane and they're experiencing things the average person isn't and never will.

And maybe it is, maybe this will all turn out ok for the kiddos. Maybe Jon & Kate can enjoy the rest of their days in a McMansion once the show is over and say "we done good pardner".

And I guess I really do hope they're right and that's how it will all turn out for them. Because if not, we're going to have 8 seriously damaged people to contend with some day. The community (society) always gets to pay for wing nut parents who did a real number on their kids. But this time I say society will have deserved it since we just couldn't stop gobbling up those sweet little gosselin babes.

Serena said...

They live a very full and bountiful life (materially).

And to that, I would quote from the Dionne book: "There was so much more money than love in our existence.".

Anonymous said...

Gosh, my mother told me the story of the Dionne Quintuplets when I was a kid (as we are from Ontario), and I was absolutely horrified (I think she was telling me how she saw them once...can't remember). I can see the similarities between them and the Gosselins now :(

They're waaaaay before my time too but as a Canadian, as someone from Ontario, I can say that the way the Dionne's were treated is a blemish on the Ontario government record, and a sad commentary on society (I had no idea the government was involved until I read that letter actually, and I'm just floored. Yikes.). So I guess the other Anonymous can speak for half of Canada, and I can speak for the other half :)

Maggie said...

This breaks my heart. What more can I say?

Anonymous said...

Serena - I wonder if someone should send J and K a hard copy of the letter from the Dionne quints to the McCaughey's. But it is doubtful that J and K would get it or have any idea that it even applies to them. That's how narcissists they are.

Here's J and K's address:

xxxx xxxxxx xxxx
xxxxxxxxxxxxx, xx xxxxx

Blogger Note: Gosselin address removed from original post.

FIONA said...

Why not post the address Serena?

Why not post the link to TLC or the petition site?

What is the point of just talking about the injustices to the kids, why can't we collectively try and do something? Are we? I wish you could give me some insight because I am feeling confused? Words with no actions...


Serena said...

Why not post the address Serena?

There is no point, and it could facilitate the wrong person tracking them down.

Why not post the link to TLC or the petition site?

In our experience, on-line petitions are not only ineffectual, they are often used to harvest information about those signing them.

Grammier said...

Fiona said >>Why not post the address Serena?

Why not post the link to TLC or the petition site?

Personally, I think the point is that if someone is reading and wants to find this information, we are letting them know it is out there. We're doing it without pointing the wrong people towards the family. As far as petitions, again, if you know they are out there and want to sign, fine. The information is out there for those who want to take more action.

sherp said...

I am not that interested. Nor am I,a detective and try and search out this information. would not sign a petition anyway and certainly not impose myself on this family. I don't like this kind of stuff.No one is abusing these kids. Okay, the kids are the business. They are not the first and won't be the last.
I believe the Dionee's were taken from their family when little.

Mama Kate said...

Wow, this is very interesting, and I would like to know what Jon or Kate would think if they received that letter from the Dionnes. My guess would be they would blow it off and figure that their situation is somehow different from that. What I would like to say to them is this - just because your kids have cameras and bright lights jammed in their faces 24/7 instead of a one way mirror and bright lights, doesn't make it any better. What they are doing is criminal. And I hope this sideshow act is stopped soon and some legislature is changed so that children cannot be taken advantage of in this way.

Anonymous said...

J and K should watch the Million Dollar Babies movie about the Dionne Quints. I watched this movie on TV about 10 years about maybe more and it has stuck with me to this day. Although I love watching J&K plus 8, at the same time my heart breaks when I see the similarities between the Quints and the Tups. I am considering sending them a copy of the movie.....maybe then they will get the message...maybe not

Anonymous said...

Blogs and forums like this do have an impact. Look at the damage control this show has chased since the criticism started. Also, people can complain to TLC and to the show's sponsors. No viewers, no sponsors, no show. Kate is too filled with her own needs and delusions to reconsider what she is doing. Jon and Kate don't exactly come across as deep thinkers or people guided by morality, so we can't expect them to stop exploiting their children because of some epiphany. They need a little help.

Anonymous said...

This is my first post anywhere, so please forgive me if I blather. I've been fascinated by the Jon/Kate/plethora of cute kiddies phenomenon for about a year or so. I have to admit that I didn't watch the programs when they originally aired, nor do I think I've seen all of them. However, I've been making comparisons between the Gosselins and the Dionnes since I first tuned in, and am glad to see it finally mentioned here. I'm also amazed at the way history repeats itself.

I believe that the Dionne Quints were the first surviving NATURAL multiple birth in recorded history. They were born in 1934 to a farming family in Northern Canada that already had several children. I recall the comment made by Mrs. Dionne (I'm paraphrasing here): "What will people think now that I've given birth to a litter?" The Canadian government made the five girls wards of the state with the parents' consent due to financial needs and the hopes of making a better life for them (and for the family). After a series of events and deals, it did turn into a packed, tourist-driven sideshow (Quintland) due in large part to the public's immediate fascination with the five adorable, identical girls AND the fact that escape was desperately needed during the Depression. If one could afford to, a family could make a vacation trip to Callander and see the girls "displayed" at certain times by their staff of nurses. If one was really lucky, they could meet Dr. Dafoe, the "Country Doctor," who became world famous when he intervened at the farmhouse as Mrs. Dionne was giving birth assisted by midwives. Dr. Dafoe also profited greatly from the Dionne Quint gravy train, as did the rest of the Dionne family and their acquaintances. Souvenir stands were run by the Quints' father, friends and the midwife team. The uncle's service station even had five matching gas pumps named for each girl! The Quints were everywhere in the printed media and marketed to pieces in the form of dolls, toys, etc. that are prized collectibles today.

The BIG difference is that the five girls did NOT have cameras in their faces 24/7. They were spared having their poops, pees, pukes and any little personality flaw recorded for the world to scrutinize, or one of their parents to rant about. When three movies were made about them, the film footage was spare and VERY controlled by the company that held the rights to any moving or still images of the Quints. There was a clear line of just how much was released to the public and that in itself created a larger-than-life legend. When the girls were "released" back to their family circa 1940, they did lead very sad lives due to their public exposure and lack of socialization.

Fast forward to 2008. Again, we're at the gates of a d-- (uh, sorry, no one uses the "D-word" now) recession. The majority of the public is concerned with their own lives and surviving every new price increase on life's necessities. Along comes another set of multiples who are being displayed to the world--only this time, there's WAY too much information being passed along. The Gosselins, similar to the Dionnes, live in a world manufactured for the needs of a production company whose job it is to show what a special, "gift-ed" world they live in. There's NO line between what's being presented or not--anything goes, according to what seems to be Kate's whim. Any candid moment that allows Kate to react in a way that she, IMO, perceives is "cute" is used to her advantage with little regard to how this will affect the kids--someday. What she's just beginning to realize, also IMO, is that the vast majority of viewers are more interested in the kids and their welfare rather than Kate's over-the-top acting ability. Lordy-be!

History repeats itself--how long before we're subject to J&K+8 'Tup and Twin dolls, a line of baby clothes or organic food--now that they have a spiffy, marketable logo? Whether or not the multiple birth was "planned" by Kate to achieve this highly public and profitable end (I've read this implied theory on a few posts) is immaterial. The family is embroiled in this situation now, with no end in sight--or until the 'Tups rebel at the age of, hopefully, five. I sincerely hope the kids make it out of this OK--one only needs to read about the later lives of the Dionnes to see why. Or as my DH said, while passing the TV--"I hope they're socking some of this cash away for the kids' therapy . . ."

Anonymous said...

Think product line can't be far away, particularly as Xmas is coming. The Dionne's were taken away from the parents and this is a different situation.

Anonymous said...

Serena, Here is a link from CNN re: the McCaughey family stance on their decision on what kind of life they want for their septuplets - it also references the Dionne letter to them.


Anonymous said...

Holding back the Gosselins' address is noble, but somewhat futile, because all it takes is a few mouseclicks to find out where they live once you've watched enough shows (although I've only seen maybe ten episodes) and have read enough blogs. Too much information has been given out and too much free information is published on the Internet. There are even the satellite map and real estate websites that show you their house from above, with the vans in the driveway and the playset behind the house.

It makes you realize how careful one needs to be these days in giving out personal information. I am amazed there aren't a bunch of whackos knocking on their door and hanging out in their yard all the time. I would think they have a massive home security system set up, although I can't recall seeing an ADT or similiar sign during any eps.

One sad thing I had read about, and which I have confirmed, is that Kate's father's church is within walking distance of their house; they might even be able to see it from their front yard; and yet they drive an hour to go to a different church because of the estrangement.

Also, Jodi and Kevin live right around the block. My wife and I can't figure out why the kids couldn't have just been walked down the street to the house in the time it took to buckle them all in to their car seats. Maybe they are worried some lurker is going to drive by and force the kids into a car? Or maybe you cannot walk a whole bunch of kids and not have at least one of them run off.

All this family estrangement is soooo close to them. That has to be hard to live with, I would think.

Lastly, I have read about the Dionnes and watched the Million Dollar Babies movie. The whole thing has chilled me to the core. If you were a parent, wouldn't you be extremely concerned about what placing your children into a fishbowl environment would do to their souls?

Not a Sheeple said...

Holding back the Gosselins' address is noble, but somewhat futile, because all it takes is a few mouseclicks to find out where they live once you've watched enough shows

That's true. But the burden is on the person who wants to do the research and not on us for simply handing out the info to one and all. We aren't going there.

Serena said...

Holding back the Gosselins' address is noble, but somewhat futile, because all it takes is a few mouseclicks to find out where they live once you've watched enough shows

I don't know, I see noble as things that people like Mother Teresa, for example do.

I see refusing to publish the Gosselin's home address as more just basic common decency and common sense.

Yes, it is very easy to find, but if someone were to use that information for the wrong reasons, I would rather learn that they got it on their own rather than that we provided it to them.

Anonymous said...

My apologies to the moderators, whom I respect greatly for shining a light on the ugly underbelly of the J&K+8 phenomenon. I should have written "Holding back the Gosselins' address is "decent" (yes, "noble" would be Mother Teresa) and the CORRECT thing to do, but is somewhat futile,......
That is what I meant.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the rest of my points got lost, mainly that my wife and I are concerned that the physical (and emotional) security of the children has been sacrified by their parents' and TLC's greed. And I am worried the kids will be scarred for life, as were the Dionne quints.

Initially, I liked the show, although I never liked Kate because the first thing I saw was her yelling at Jon at the toy store. If they had just kept it as an occasional documentary series, it might have worked. But now it has gotten way too intense. Kate's "personality" has been overexposed. (Seriously, if you were being filmed, knowing that people all over the US and Canada would be watching, would you not at least try to be on your best behavior?) It makes one wonder how bad she is when the cameras go away. Scary, "icky" thought. BTW, it is funny when she corrects Jon's grammar, because hers is even worse.

I cannot begin to imagine living my life with film crews around filming everything I did; to have them in the most private spaces such as the bathrooms and the bedrooms. The kids need a sanctuary and there is none.

Sorry to rant but this whole child exploitation thing strikes as being wrong, and dangerous, on so many levels. The show really is a huge train wreck, as so many have pointed out. You don't want to watch, and you know it is wrong to watch; but you can't help yourself, mainly because you are concerned about the children.