A Celebratory Biographical Report on the Legendary Beauty's Decision to Become Extraordinary
On June 1, 1926, “history's most phenomenal love goddess” (according to Philippe Halsman, one of her many photographers) was born Norma Jeane Mortenson, in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Gladys Baker Mortenson, named Norma Jeane after Norma Talmadge, one of the most gifted silent film actresses of the era. Gladys worked as a film editor at Consolidated Film Industries for Hollywood Studios. She was thought to be either manic depressive or schizophrenic and spent much of her life institutionalized. Gladys placed the infant Norma Jeane in the hands of Ida and Wayne Bolender, a devoutly religious couple, in Hawthorne, California, because she could not financially afford the baby.
Gladys was a single mother; the name of the father on Norma Jeane's birth certificate is Edward Mortenson, but the validity of this fact has not gone without public speculation. Gladys and Edward were separated long before Norma Jeane was born, and he was killed in a motorcycle accident when she was only three years old. C. Stanley Gifford is often assumed to be the father, but he abandoned Gladys as soon as the news of her pregnancy reached him. Despite the controversy, Norma Jeane grew up without a father, and without a genuine father figure. She believed her father to be Gifford. She would recall his striking resemblance to the famous Clark Gable, and she would be proud to claim the movie star as her “daddy.” Gifford, however, wanted nothing to do with her when Norma Jeane tried to reach him. Nor did he want anything to do with her when she had become Marilyn Monroe. This significant lack of fulfillment and attention in her childhood contributed toward the insecurity she found so evidently in her life as a starlet.
In 1933, Norma Jeane moved back in with her mother and an English couple with whom she worked, until Gladys was admitted to an institution because of a breakdown. Then, the English couple took care of Norma Jeane until they moved, which is when she began staying with the neighbors. Numerous offers were presented in terms of Norma Jeane's adoption, but Grace McKee, one of Gladys's closest friends, was named legal guardian with Gladys's consent. Due to financial difficulties, Norma Jeane was soon admitted to Los Angeles Orphans Home Society in 1935, then jumped from one foster home to the next over the following months. During this period of foster care, she recounts more than one occasion of molestation. Although controversy surrounds Norma Jeane's story, one underlying truth remains: the haunting recollection of the sexual abuse that occurred in her childhood lingered for the rest of her life.
Norma Jeane finally ended up in a stable home with Grace's aunt, Ana Lower. Grace and her husband, Doc, still supervised and supported her throughout her years in school. Aunt Ana introduced Norma Jeane to the Christian Scientist Church, to which she took a liking. She entered Emerson Junior High School in 1939. She was a lengthy, curvy, well developed 13 year old girl who received (and adored) attention in all the right ways. She kissed goodbye to “Norma Jeane the Human Bean,” her childhood nickname, as she entered Van Nuys High School in 1941. At this time, Doc got a promotion that required relocation and Aunt Ana was feeling too worn to take care of Norma Jeane, so she only had two options: the orphanage or marriage. Grace set her up with Jim Dougherty, who played football in high school and lived in the neighborhood. He was twenty-one years old and held a stable and financially rewarding position at Lockheed Aviation. Jim and Norma Jeane dated casually until they got engaged in May of 1942. She dropped out of high school to marry him in June, shortly after her sixteenth birthday.
Norma Jeane later claimed that she was forced into marriage and never felt genuinely...