Norma Jean Mortensen Baker was born to her mother Gladys Mortensen on June
1st, 1926 at 9:30 am in Los Angeles, California.
Gladys was divorced from her husband, C. Stanley Gifford and separated
from her husband Ed Mortensen.
Ed Mortensen was who Gladys put on Norma Jean’s birth certificate as her
father but it is still in question if he was her father of if it was her first husband
Jack Baker who was her father.
Gladys had two other kids from another marriage. She had them in her
first marriage to Jack Baker. They were married when she was sixteen in 1917.
The kids names were Hermitt Jack and Berneice. They went to live with their
father’s family in Kentucky after their divorce in 1921.
Hermitt reportedly died of Tuberculosis in the early 20’s, but Gladys
reported both of them dead when Norma Jean was born. Gladys later reunited in
the 60’s when Berneice in the 60’s when Berneice became Gladys legal guardian.
After Norma Jean was born Gladys decided she couldn’t afford her and so
she sent her to live with a mail carrier and his wife, Albert and Ida Bolender.
Norma Jean spent her first years with the Bolenders. They were very
religious. They boarded children at their property. It was two acres. They tried
to adopt her but Gladys always rejected.
Her Grandmother live across the street from the Bolenders. Her name
was Della Hogan Monroe Grainger. She would take Norma Jean to her house for
visits often. Later in life Marilyn said that she awoke in the night fighting for her
lifer because her grandmother was holding a pillow over her face. Many people
say she couldn’t remember this happening because she was only a year old then.
Another time Della tried to “rescue” Norma Jean. She tired breaking the
Bolenders door down. She had to be taken away by the police and she was put
in an asylum on August 4, 1927, where she died 3 weeks later from a heart attack
during a manic seizure.
Norma Jean’s situation was very confusing for her. She got weekend
visits from Gladys. Norma Jean never called her her mama though. She didn’t
know Gladys was really her mother until Ida Bolender pointed it out to her. She
had always called the Bolenders mom and dad until Ida corrected her.
There was another kid there named Lester. He got away with away with
calling them mom and dad because he had been adopted by them. Yet, they
called Norma Jean and Lester “twins” which only confused Norma Jean even
Gladys started spending more time with her daughter and she took her to
work with her occasionally. She was five when she saw pictures of the father for
the first time. “I felt so excited I almost fell off my chair...That was my first happy
time.” (Marilyn by: Kathy Rooks-Denes, copyright 1993, pg. 19).
In 1934 Norma Jean was brought to lice with her mom and an English
couple. They urged her out of the religious shell she was in and got her into
singing and dancing and the movies.
Gladys worked two jobs. She tried to provide a good family life for her
daughter but in 1935 Gladys was taken away on away on a stretcher. She was
put in the same mental hospital her mom had died in and was diagnosed with
paranoid schizophrenia. She would stay in the hospital almost the rest of her life.
Her mother would never allow her to be adopted out so she lived in 12
different families, 10 of them foster parents, when she wasn’t in a Los Angeles
At age 16 Norma Jean was forced into a marriage to 20 year old Jim
Dougherty. She didn’t want to marry him. She thought she was way too young
but she was forced to do so anyways.
“I had six mothers weeping when I marched down the aisle” (Marilyn pg.
25) Gladys wasn’t there though even though she wasn’t in a hospital at the time.
They didn’t take a honeymoon and Jim went to work the next day like their
marriage wasn’t any big deal. “It was like being retired to a zoo. The effect
marriage had on me was to increase my lack of interest in sex...Actually our
marriage was a sort of friendship with sexual privileges, (which) brought me
neither pain nor happiness.” (Marilyn pg. 26)
She wanted a baby but he talked her out of it and bought her a collie for
In 1943 Jim joined