Skip to main content

Norma-Jeane: A Legend Is Born

Marilyn Monroe to me is an inspiration.She over came every obstacle in her way to be the most famous woman to have ever graced the earth.

It's a girl...

On the morning of 1st of June 1926, under the star sign of Gemini a baby girl was born at 9:30am on the Charity Ward of the Los Angeles County Hospital to her mother Gladys Mortensen.

This was Gladys's third child who she named Norma-Jeane Mortensen but this name Gladys gave as the father could simply not be true as she had been separated from her husband Edward Mortensen for well over a year and had been dating.

The father, whom Norma-Jeane never met was Stanley G. Gifford who Gladys had meet while she was working as a film cutter at Consolidated Film Laboratories and he was a salesman. As soon as he found out he was to be father, he was off as fast as his motorbike would take him.

A week or so after her birth, Norma-Jeane was baptised Norma-Jeane Baker by Sister Aimee Semple McPherson of the Foursquare Gospel, and by the end of June/beginning of July, Gladys had to go back to work so she placed her baby girl with a foster family called the Bolenders who also looked after other children for $5 a week. The Bollenders also lived on the same street as Gladys's mother Della who was baby Norma-Jeane's Grandmother and who also advised her daughter to adopt Norma-Jeane, but Gladys would not hear anything of this and the Bollenders were a good compromise so Gladys could go back to work and visit Norma-Jeane at the weekends.

Gladys's mother Della Monroe Granger, her first husband was Otis Elmer Monroe, Gladys's father who died in 1909. Della then married oil field worker Charles Granger in 1923, and they lived in Rhode Island Avenue in Hawthorne which is a suburb of L.A but their marriage was up-set by Della's mood swings, so he went off to work in an oil field in Borneo.

Upset by this Della took to religion and joined Sister Aimee Semple McPherson's Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

In the December of 1925, Gladys came home to her mother's a bungalow in Hawthorn to tell her mother of herself becoming a mother, again and the father did not want to marry her. Gladys wanted to stay with her but Della was off to Borneo, wanting to try and reconnect with her husband Charles Granger. So arrangements were made for Gladys to stay with Mr Wayne Bollender and his wife Ida who were devote christian fundamentalists and took care of children for a fee and Gladys stayed with until Norma-Jeane was born and a few weeks after the birth. Then Gladys returned to Hollywood and her apartment and her job as a film cutter at Consolidated Film Laboratories.

Glady came to see baby Norma-Jeane most weekends but as Norma-Jeane got older, she was not sure who the pretty lady with the red hair really was until one day.

The Bollenders looked after many children including one boy called Lester who was two months younger than Norma-Jeane and who people thought that they were twins was adopted by the Bolenders. By about 2 years old Norma-Jeane and Lester would copy each other in play and one day Lester called to Ida as Mama and so did Norma-Jeane but Ida told little Norma-Jeane under no circumstance that she was not her Mama, the lady with the red hair is your Mama.

Scroll to Continue
A baby Norma-Jeane 1926.

A baby Norma-Jeane 1926.

Norma-Jeane Timeline - 1926 - 1946

  • 1926, June 1st - Norma-Jeane is born.
  • June 13th - Placed with the Bollenders as a foster child.
  • 1933, Fall - Norma-Jeane moves in with her Mother Gladys.
  • 1934, February - Gladys is committed into the Norwalk State Asylum.
  • 1935, June 1st - Norma-Jeane is made ward of Grace McKee, Gladys's best friend and co-worker at Consolidated Film Laboratories.
  • September 13th - Norma-Jeane enters into the Los Angelese Orphans Home Society by Grace due to lack of money.
  • 1937, June 26th - Grace got married to Ewin 'Doc' Goddard a few weeks previous, and is now able to take Norma-Jeane home with her.
  • 1938, November - Norma-Jeane goes to live with Aunt Ana Lower, Grace's aunt and who became a very important person to Norma-Jeane.
  • 1941, June 27th - Norma-Jeane graduates from Emerson Junior High.
  • 1942, June 1st - Norma-Jeane turns sweet sixteen.
  • June 19th - Norma-Jeane marries the boy next door - Norma-Jeane and James 'Jimmy' Dougherty get married to save Norma-Jeane from having to spend two more years in an orphanage, due to Grace and Doc moving out of California which Norma-Jeane was not allowed to do due to the conditions of her residency and ward to grace, so marriage was the only way out of the system.
  • 1944, April - With Jimmy now off to war after nearly two blissful years on Catalina Island, Norma-Jeane has to go to live with her mother-in-law and she takes a job at Radio Plain Company in Burbank on the assembly line.
  • 1945, Spring - David Conover is Sent from 'Yank' magazine to take pictures of the pretty girls working on the assembly lines to boost moral of the solders, and he spots Norma-Jeane. He is instantly taken by her natural beauty.
  • Summer - First photo shoot with David Conover.
  • August 2nd - The prestigious model agency 'The Blue Book Modeling Agency', signs Norma-Jeane to their books.
  • November - Andre de Dienes photographs Norma-Jeane for the first time.
  • 1946 - Norma-Jeane gets her first national magazine cover for 'Family Circle', picture by Andre de Dienes in the April and by September of this year, Norma-Jeane is granted a divorce from James Dougherty.

Marilyn Monroe, Life Magazine interviewed by Richard Merryman 17th August 1962

"But when you're famous you kind of run into human nature in a raw kind of way. It stirs up envy, fame dose. People you run into feel that, well, who is she, who dose she think she is, Marilyn Monroe"?

Norma-Jeane by David Conover for Yank Magazine 1945

Norma-Jeane by David Conover for Yank Magazine 1945

Marilyn's Birth Certificate

Marilyn's Birth Certificate

The Last Interview With Life Magazine 1962


Great Interviews of the 20th Century: Marilyn Monroe Interviewed by Richard Merryman The Guardian September 14th 2007

My Story

© 2019 Lisa-Marie Kavanagh

Related Articles