The Fultz Sisters
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The Fultz Sisters/Fultz Quads
|Born||May 23, 1946|
At Annie Penn Hospital in Reidsville, N.C.
|Died||Mary Louise 1946-1991 (45yo)|
Mary Ann 1946-1995 (49 yo)
Mary Alice 1946-2001 (55 yo)
Mary Catherine 1946-2018 (72yo)
|Other names||Fultz Quads|
The chances of a couple conceiving quadruplets in the 1940s, decades before the availability of fertility treatments, and the fact that the family was poor and black made this a sensational story that garnered nationwide media attention. The Fultz Sisters also known as the “Fultz Quads” were the first identical African American quadruplets on record. The Fultz Sisters are one of three sets of quadruplets born in America to survive into adulthood. They were born on May 23, 1946 in Reidsville, North Carolina. The Quads’ parents were Pete Fultz and Annie Mae Fultz. The father was a sharecropper and the mother was deaf and mute. Living on a farm with a household consisting of 6 other children, it was financially hard for Pete and Annie. They were all delivered prematurely at three pounds each in a segregated wing known as “the basement” of Annie Penn Hospital. The delivery of the children was accomplished by Dr. Fred Klenner and a black nurse named Margaret Ware. The basement was considered the blacks only wing at the time. The hospital didn't have incubator so the babies were wrapped in cotton gauze blankets and were placed close by each other to gain warmth. Mary Louise, Mary Ann, Mary Alice, and Mary Catherine were the names of the quadruplet sisters, with Mary Catherine being the last one born and the most unexpected at birth. Multiple births were very rare at this time and the equipment was not sophisticated to take care of the premature and underweight babies. Due to the Fultz sisters’ parents being too poor to raise their children themselves, Dr. Klenner and nurse by the name of Elma Saylor helped provide the basic necessities for them. Dr. Klenner allegedly experimented with Mrs. Fultz by putting her on a high dosage of vitamin C in the later parts of her pregnancy. Neither Pete nor Annie Mae could read which Dr. Klenner allegedly exploited. Dr. Klenner took the responsibility of naming the children upon himself since the parents could not read. He decided to name them all Mary followed by the names of the women in the Klenner family. Ann was for Dr. Klenners wife, Louise was for his daughter, Alice was for his aunt, and Catherine was for his great aunt.
Impact of music
Music was a large part of the Fultz sister lives. They went to Bethune–Cookman University to study music. The sisters were accepted into the college as one unit and had received a four-year scholarship to attend there. While in college, the sisters were inseparable. But from having medical problems to skipping classes, the sisters grades dropped drastically low. They attended the university for at least two years until the school asked their parents to remove them. The forced withdrawal from the school, according to their nurse Edna Sayor, eventually put the girls in a state of depression for a long period of time. They eventually returned home to live with Edna Sayor and her husband. The Fultz sisters still tried to maintain some sort of fame and decided to go into show business. They developed an amateur band at twenty-two years old and tried working in nightclubs. Among all four of the sisters, they eventually learned how to play the piano, guitar, viola, drums, cello, violin, and organ. As a group they were able to harmonize together, but each sister had different musical talents. After music, they all eventually became nurses aides following in the footsteps of their longtime caretaker Mrs. Saylor.
Fame and business deals with PET Milk Corporation
Pet Milk targeted the Quad sisters to help bring in black urban consumers. This is mostly because during the era of the 1940s, black communities did not buy baby formula because it was too expensive. This ultimately led to most mothers breastfeeding. Pet Milk negotiated a deal with Dr. Fred Klenner who reportedly turned down two other companies. Pet reportedly offered to pay all medical bills associated with the birth of the girls, hire an in-home nurse, provide the girls with their own farm land, provide a house for the family, and pay $350 per month for their care. At the age of 13, in November 1959, the girls performed as a string quartet in the annual Orange Blossom festival in Miami, Florida. The Fultz sisters also appeared in magazines such as Ebony. They first appeared in Ebony at the age of one. The Fultz sisters were so popular that at one point, there was an ad that offered an autographed picture of the sisters. The sisters also appeared on television shows and met presidents and celebrities such as John F Kennedy, Harry Truman and Althea Gibson.
None of the Fultz sisters are living. Mary Louise died in 1991 at the age 45, Mary Ann died in 1995 at the age 49, Mary Alice died in 2001 at the age 55, and Mary Catherine in 2018 at the age 72. All these deaths were caused by the same disease; breast cancer. Before Mary Catherine passed away, she believed that this cancerous disease was caused from the shot in the hospital that was given to them when they were first born. The fact that the Fultz Sisters lived so long was quite impressive because their chances for survival, ever since they were born, were quite slim. Each of the Fultz Sisters was born prematurely and with the expected birth of quadruplets they lacked the necessary equipment to treat them. The Fultz Sisters went through treatment such as eye-dropper feeding and incubator nursing.
- A picture was taken of the sisters with President Kennedy, which is in the White House Archives or the JFK Library.
- The sisters appeared in many Ebony magazine spreads and black publications.
- The story of the sisters is described in Skimmed: Breastfeeding, Race and Injustice by Andrea Freeman
- "LIttle Known Black History Fact: The Fultz Quadruplets". Black America Web. 2015-06-10. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- Chinwe (2015-09-18). "The Fultz Sisters: The Fascinating and Tragic Story of America's First Identical Black Quadruplets". BGLH Marketplace. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- "Fultz quads meet President Kennedy 62". Des Moines Tribune. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- Newsome, Melba (April 1, 2005). "I think it was the shots". O. New York, N.Y. 6 (4): 232. ISSN 1531-3247.
- MaGee, Ny (9 Feb 2016). "Black History Forgotten: How The Fultz Quadruplets Were Exploited By Pet Milk". The Inquisitr.