MONTREAL (AP) _ After spending her childhood gawked at by tourists fascinated by identical quintuplets, Yvonne Dionne lived a fiercely private life, and died a private death.
One of three surviving Dionne quintuplets, Yvonne died Saturday from cancer at a Montreal hospital, her family said in a statement. She was 67.
The 1934 birth of five identical sisters to an impoverished couple in the small town of Callander, Ontario, was hailed as a medical miracle. At the time, they were the only known quintuplets to survive more than a few days.
Because of financial concerns and the huge amount of attention the quints were garnering, their father signed a contract within 48 hours of their birth to exhibit the girls at the Chicago World's Fair. He went back on the deal after public criticism labeled him money-hungry.
The Ontario provincial government soon deemed the Dionne parents unfit to care for their girls, and they were put in a specially built hospital called Quintland. They became a moneymaking tourist attraction during the lean Depression years, and more than 5 million tourists viewed the girls there through one-way glass.
As adults, the women led extremely private lives. Yvonne, who never married, trained to be a nurse and worked as a clerk in a Montreal library.
A statement issued Saturday by her family said they would refuse all interviews and that funeral arrangements would be strictly private. It added that Yvonne's surviving sisters, Annette and Cecile, mourn her in Montreal and asked that donations be made to a help-line for child abuse victims.
Overseen by a state-appointed board of guardians, the quints weren't allowed to live in their family home or play with their other siblings. Oliva and Elzire were allowed to visit their daughters whenever they wished, but they were left almost entirely out of decisions about how they would be raised.
Quintland was built across the street and nurses and teachers were hired to care for the girls.
An estimated $500 million flowed into the Northern Ontario economy during Quintland's heyday. They are still considered a cornerstone of the local tourist industry, with their birth home now a museum.
Dionne was predeceased by two sisters. Emilie suffocated during an epileptic seizure in 1954 at the age of 20 and Marie died of a blood clot in her brain in 1970, at the age of 36.
In 1941, Oliva won custody of his 7-year-old daughters and the family was reunited under one roof. The government also announced it would build a $50,000, seven-bedroom home for the entire Dionne family, now with 12 children.
The quints amassed wealth of their own from product endorsements, dolls and toys in their likeness and four movie contracts. In 1938, their assets were valued at $700,000, later peaking at more than $1 million, which they collected upon their 21st birthday.
In the 1990s, the three surviving Dionne quints sued the Ontario government for separating them from their family and putting them on display. They received a multimillion settlement.