Gladys Pearl Monroe
Before the fans, the fame and the legendary status, she was Norma Jean. Norma Jean "something" because not even she knew 100 percent who her father was. Marilyn was a woman of many identities. Norma Jean was a girl of none.
Her mother, Gladys Pearl Monroe, was born in Mexico in 1902. Her father Otis Monroe were working for a Mexican railroad company and the family moved from job to job in various locations in Southern California. In 1905 her parents got a second child, Marion. When Gladys was six her father Otis died. Her mother Della remarried a man named Lyle Arthur Graves, but they were never happy and divorced in 1914. Gladys left home early and married a man named Jack Baker. With him she gave birth to a son, Jack Jr, and a daughter, Berniece, but the marriage deteriorated quickly and in 1921 young mother Gladys filed for divorce. Jack took his children with him to live in Kentucky, where the rest of his family lived. Gladys visited from time to time but eventually lost touch with the children.
After her divorce Gladys moved in with Della, but frequent fights between mother and daughter made their reunion short-lived and Gladys took a new path in her life and moved in beside a booming movie industry in Southern California. She started to work as a film cutter and made many friends and grew popular. In 1924 she married Martin Edward Mortensen and again she divorced just a few months after the marriage. She resumed her pre-marriage lifestyle and went out with friends and met with boyfriends. In 1925 Gladys again became pregnant and gave birth to her third child. The little girl was born at LA county hospital on June 1, 1926. Her friends from work took up collection and paid for the medical needs of the single mother and the baby whom Gladys named Norma Jeane. There was no known father.
Young Norma Jean
As a little girl, Norma Jean loved to make belive that her father was her idol, Clark Gable, because he resembled a photo of a man with the mustache, whom her mother had told her was her father. Most likely however, candidates for the paternity of Norma Jean were Charles Stanley Gifford and Edward Mortensen. Mortensen was the name Gladys had listed on the birth certificate.
Birth certificate,June 1, 1926 General Hospital
Gladys had a fulltime job and life as a single mother was hard on her so she send her newborn child to a foster home run by Wayne and Ida Bolender. Gladys knew of the family because they lived down the road from her mother, Della, 16 miles away in Hawthorne, California.The Bolenders were devout Christians who took in a number of foster children as a means of earning an additional income.
Gladys paid 5 dollars each week to the Bolenders for her daughter´s room and board, but she remained a mostly absentee mother for the first seven years of Norma Jeane´s life. In 1933, however Gladys came and stayed for an extended period when Norma Jean got ill with a terrible cough. When Norma Jeane was well again, Gladys took her daughter with her back to Hollywood where she was living in an apartment shared with a fellow film cutter named Grace McKee. The Three of them lived together a brief time, untill Gladys got a loan to purchase a home of her own on Arbol Street in Hollywood.
The life she led with her mother would not last long. In 1934 Gladys was sent to a sanitarium. The Atkinson, who had been renting a few rooms from Gladys took in Norma Jean for a short time before moving home to England then Grace McKee became her legal guardian. When Grace married Erwin Goddard Norma Jean found herself in the Los angeles orphanage. It was a shock that traumatized her. She was convinced she had been placed there by misstake. Grace visited her during that time and took her home for good less then two years later. Grace dressed her up in pretty clothes, styled her hair and told her that one day she would be a big star. Norma Jean loved these times and the seed of her ambition were planted.
Sadly again all those good times would be tainted by trauma. Mr Goddard made an attempt to sexually molest Norma Jean and therefor Grace quickly sent her away to the home of Grace´s aunt Ana Lower who she would come to love dearly. From now on Norma Jeane would be shuffeled between the homes of Ana Lower and the home of Grace´s since aunt Ana was not in the best of health.
In 1942 Mr Goddard took a job in West Virginia and it was decided that Norma Jean would not move with them. Grace did not want her to be placed in yet another orphanage or foster home so she had come up with a plan- to marry her off with the boy next door, 21 year old James Dougherty. Jim had genuine feelings for Norma Jean and he did not hesitate to ash her to marry him. Norma Jean liked Jim as well and went along with it and became Mrs. James Dougherty less than three weeks after her sixteenth birthday, on June 19, 1942.
World war II was raging and men were going away to fight, and the roles of the women they left behind were changing. In the case of Norma Jeane it would be a change in a way that no one who knew her in her childhood could have expected in their wildest dreams.
Now this was the end of her childhood and the beginning of her long way towards becoming Marilyn Monroe, the star.