Despite having an unstable early life, Marilyn Monroe dreamed of becoming a Hollywood star. She watched as many films as possible, fantasized that Clark Gable, a famous actor, was her father, and looked up to Jean Harlow, the blonde actress who inspired Marilyn’s famous hairdo.
The instability in Marilyn’s life stemmed from a lack of permanent parental figures to guide her. She would spend a few months in one home before being transferred to another institution or household, depriving her of a foundation to build her life.
Marilyn wed Jim Dougherty when she was 16 to avoid placement in another orphanage.
Marilyn was not an orphan, but she grew up in foster homes and orphanages
Marilyn Monroe was born on 1st June 1926 to Gladys Pearl Baker. Her father, Charles Stanley Gifford, deserted Gladys and wanted nothing to do with Marilyn. Monroe would pass away having never met her biological father.
Two weeks after Monroe’s birth, Gladys placed her in Ida and Wayne Bolender’s foster home. Gladys spent the next six months with the Bolenders in Hawthorne, California, before moving back to Los Angeles for employment.
Baker stopped by on the weekends to spend time with Monroe and would occasionally take her to her apartment in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Gladys’ mental health started failing, causing increasingly erratic behavior: she attempted to kidnap the three-year-old Monroe from the Bolenders’ residence.
Four years later, the Bolenders relinquished Marilyn’s custody, placing her under Bakers’ care. Gladys bought a home near the Hollywood Bowl and took in roommates for financial support.
Sadly, the deaths of Gladys’ son, Jackie, and her grandfather worsened her fragile mental health. In mid-1934, doctors diagnosed Gladys with paranoid schizophrenia and admitted her to a hospital in Norwalk.
Therefore, Monroe slipped into the foster care system. Marilyn spent time in the residences of Grace Goddard, her mom’s close friend, her mom’s sister-in-law, and the Los Angeles Orphans’ Home. After a while, Marilyn moved to the home of Aunt Ana, Goddard’s family friend.
Monroe also connected with her older-half sister Berniece, who lived with her father in Kentucky. In 1946, Baker secured release from San Jose Agnews State Hospital and moved in with Aunt Ana. However, her mental health kept fading, affecting her relationship with Monroe.
Gladys rarely spoke with Marilyn; when she did, she berated her daughter for choosing an acting career.
Monroe spread the false narrative that her parents had passed away
In September 1946, Gladys announced she wanted to live with her aunt in Oregon. Gladys didn’t go to Oregon, however: Monroe’s mother fled to get married to John Stewart Eley, a man with a wife and family in Idaho.
Monroe used Gladys’ disappearance to her advantage, spreading a false narrative that her parents were dead. The fake story of an orphan girl with a tough childhood defeating all the odds to make it in Hollywood contributed to Monroe’s appeal and rapid rise.
The truth came out in May 1952 – the media reported that Gladys was alive and working at a nursing home in Eagle Rock, California.
Marilyn’s biological parents outlived the Hollywood star
In 1952, Gladys was committed to Rock Haven Sanitarium in La Crescenta. She communicated with Monroe through letters that pleaded with Monroe to get her out of the institution.
Monroe and Baker saw each other for the last time in 1962. Marilyn visited Gladys in Rock Haven to beg her to take her medication. Gladys refused, saying divine intervention would cure her. Baker lived 22 years longer than her beloved daughter, Norma Jeane.
Charles Gifford, Marilyn’s father, died in 1965, three years after Monroe’s passing. Marilyn tried to meet Gifford before and after her fame, but Charles rebuffed both attempts.
Francine, Charles’ granddaughter, speculated that Charles regretted refusing to meet Monroe. She said: “He had two other children but his daughter Elizabeth died of illness at the age of 13. For him to have lost another daughter is dreadful, especially as Marilyn also passed away before he did.”