When five identical baby girls were born 83 years ago in Canada, it was a global event; the one-in-a-billion birth, not to mention first known survival past birth, drew tourists from near and far to the tiny town of North Bay, Ontario. And the provincial government, declaring the parents unfit and claiming the need to protect the girls from exploitation, took them away from their family and, in an act of what Link calls "great hypocrisy," raised them on a compound referred to as Quintland, a sort of human zoo where people could observe the Dionne girls playing through one-way windows. So many people did so that 1934's $51 million in revenue topped tourist spending at Niagara Falls that year. Now, the two surviving quintuplets are "reluctantly" back in the public eye, per the New York Times.
Annette and Cécile Dionne are fighting another government decision—this time from the mayor of North Bay. He wants to move their childhood home, a now-defunct museum, 45 minutes away to the only interested buyer, claiming the house would cost the city an estimated $110,000 a year to maintain. The would-be buyer has no ties to the women: It's an agricultural society that puts on a fall fair in a small Ontario town each year. Annette and Cécile argue the house should stay as a reminder of the "foolish choices" governments can make. In a letter sent to the city council in February, the women call theirs "a Canadian story worth remembering. Our birth and survival in this small house, without heat and electricity, was a huge story during the Great Depression. ... It served to inspire and bring hope to millions worldwide also living in difficult times." A city council committee plans to discuss the situation on Tuesday. (Read more quintuplets stories.)