Marilyn Monroe had a difficult childhood. Born Norma Jean Mortensen on June 1, 1926 to a mentally unstable mother and absent father, she spent her childhood in a series of foster homes and an orphanage.
The identity of Norma’s father is still unclear. Mother Gladys had married Martin Mortensen in 1924, although they separated in 1925, before her pregnancy with Norma, and divorced in 1928. After Norma’s birth, Gladys changed her surname to Baker, the name of her first husband. Norma herself thought her father was a man called Charles Gifford.
As Gladys was mentally and financially incapable of caring for Norma, she placed her daughter with foster parents, where Norma stayed until she was seven. In 1933, her mother bought a house and took Marilyn to live with her, but shortly after she had the first of a series of mental crises. Marilyn became a ward of the state.
Gladys’ best friend, Grace, was appointed Norma’s guardian, but after two years she married and sent Norma to Los Angeles Orphans Home. Several people showed interest in adopting Norma, but Gladys would not sign the papers.
After a time in further foster homes, Norma returned to live with Grace and her husband “Doc.” He allegedly attempted to sexually assault her, so Grace moved the girl to live with her great-aunt Olive in California. There she was again the victim of a sexual assault, allegedly by Olive’s son. Grace sent Norma to live with another aunt, Ana Lower. It may have been Ana’s ill health that forced another move, this time back to Grace and her husband in 1942, when Norma was 16.
When Grace and Doc had to move, they decided not to take Norma, who was in a relationship with a neighbor’s son, Jim Dougherty. In order to keep her out of foster care, Norma and Jim were married. They divorced in 1946, the same year she began to use the name Marilyn Monroe, a name devised by a 20th Century Fox executive.
A set of lovely vintage photos that shows a three-year-old Norma Jeane Baker (Marilyn Monroe) on the beach with her mother Gladys Baker and a group of friends in 1929.