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1920s

1926

1 June: Norma Jeane Mortenson is born at the Los Angeles General Hospital.

On her birth certificate, she was identified as the daughter of Gladys Monroe (her maiden name). She used the surname of Martin Edward Mortenson for her daughter, her second husband, whom she divorced in 1928. 

Week of 13 June: Gladys places Norma Jeane in the care of Albert and Ida Bolender who received $25 a week for the care of fostering children, either from the parents or the state. This was common practice at the time. The Bolender were neighbours of Gladys’s mother (and Norma Jeane’s grandmother), Della Grainger (nee Monroe).

Gladys would visit Norma Jeane at weekends and take care of her. The Bolenders cared for Norma Jeane for seven years.

Della Monroe with a baby Norma Jeane

6 December: Norma Jeane is baptised at the temple of Sister Aimee Semple MacPherson, a Pentecostal Minister, at the Foursquare Gospel Church. 


1927

February: Norma Jeane begins to talk and says “Mama”

1 June: Norma Jeane turns one year old.

July: Due to her declining health and heart issues, Della starts hallucinating. Because of her heart condition, oxygen deprivation to the brain provokes erratic behaviour. During one incident Della had left her home, walked to the Bolenders house and beat at the door demanding to see Norma Jeane. She eventually broke in, entering through a window.  It’s reported that she tried to suffocate Norma Jeane with a pillow.

4 August:  Della is admitted to the Norwalk State Hospital where acute myocarditis was diagnosed.

23 August: Della dies of heart failure during a manic episode which Gladys, and later Marilyn herself, would consider as an inherited malediction. 

According to her death certificate, she died from myocarditis and “a manic-depressive psychosis” however, her medical records didn’t mention any psychiatric or neurological analysis. She is buried on 25 August.

Gladys begins living with a roommate, Grace McKee but Norma Jeane remains with the Bolenders.

Gladys and Norma Jeane

1928

Gladys and Edward Mortenson (Gladys’s second husband) divorce.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns two.


1929

Gladys is promoted in her role at Consolidated Industries on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns three.

September: Norma Jeane begins attending the Hawthorne Community Sunday School


1930S

1930

1 April: Census records show that Norma Jeane lived with her mother and the Boldenders in Inglewood.

1 June: Norma Jean turns four.

28 September: Norma Jeane begins attending the Community Sunday School in Hawthorne. She graduates from the Cradle Roll Department to Beginners Department.

Sometime in the 1930s, Norma Jeane adopts a dog named Tippy, which she found and brought home. The Bolenders agree to let her keep the dog.

1931

1 June: Norma Jeane turns five.

14 September: Norma Jeane starts school at the Ballona Elementary and Kindergarten School.


1932

1 June: Norma Jeane turns six.

17 June: Norma Jeane has her last day at Ballona Elementary and Kindergarten School.

27 March: Norma Jeane performs at The Hollywood Bowl for Easter Sunday. She and approximately fifty other children pose as a living cross. She said of the event later in life, “We wore white tunics under our dresses and, at the signal, we had to remove our dresses to change the black cross into a white one… I was bored… I completely forgot and found myself the only black patch in a white cross. My family didn’t forgive me ever.”

September: Norma Jeane attends the Vine Street School.

1933

March: After the Long Beach earthquake which took place on 10 March, Norma Jeane briefly attends Fifth Street School. Her teacher, Evelyn Gawthorp describes her as a “timid child who loved to sing.”

Spring: Norma Jeane has a whooping cough. She has her tonsils removed.

29 May: Gladys’s grandfather (Norma Jeane’s great-grandfather), Tilford Hogan, commits suicide due to the strains of the Great Depression, furthering Gladys’s conviction that mental health issues run in the family. 

June: There are multiple stories that tell the story of how Tippy died. One version is that due to Tippy’s barking, an annoyed neighbour killed the dog. Another says that he was hit by a car. Either way, the death of Tippy leaves Norma Jeane heartbroken. The Bolenders call Gladys who arrives at the end of June with her friend Grace McKee to take Norma Jeane back to her apartment. 

1 June: Norma Jeane turns seven.

13 June: Gladys obtains a $5,000 loan from the Mortgage Guarantee Company of California and uses the money to buy a six-room furnished house with three bedrooms. They move in at the end of August and begin renting a room to a couple of English actors, the Atkinsons.

16th August: Norma Jeane’s half-brother (unknown to Norma Jeane at the time), Robert (aka Jackie) dies at the age of 15 years old. Jackie died from tuberculosis of the kidney.

September: Norma Jeane attended the Selma Avenue school in which she was registered under the misspelling, Norma Jean.  


1934

This is the year when Marilyn is sexually assaulted. She begins to stutter.

January: Gladys, who was taking medication for her depression the previous year, starts suffering from manic episodes. She is taken to hospital. The effects of the medication weren’t fully understood at the time but it is believed to have created more of a negative effect on Gladys. With her mother in the hospital, Norma Jeane is looked after by the British couple (George and Maude Atkinson) who lived in the home and Grace McKee. 

February: Gladys leaves the hospital and resumes working as a film cutter. She begins drinking and taking her prescription medication, despite her religious beliefs.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns eight.

21 October: Gladys’ house is put up for sale at $4,500. The Atkinsons return to England and Grace begins acting as Norma Jeane’s guardian. She is temporarily placed in the care of her sister Enid and Enid’s husband (Sam Knebelkamp). Grace’s aunt, Ana Lower also helps take care of Norma Jeane.

December: A report was written by Los Angeles General Hospital describes Gladys illness: “constant religious concerns and with a deep depression and a big agitation. It seems that the illness has reached its chronic stage.”


1935

15 January:  Gladys is admitted at the Norwalk State Hospital, declared as having paranoid schizophrenia.

25 March: Grace McKee files a petition to become Norma Jeane’s legal guardian. In the meantime, she stays in numerous foster homes. Grace learns that in September there will be space at a local orphanage.

22 May: Grace pays twenty-five dollars Nellie Atkinson (George and Maude’s daughter) for Norma Jeane’s care. The Giffens who Marilyn was staying with welcomed Norma Jeane into their home.

Spring: Grace meets Erwin “Doc” Goddard.

June: Gladys signs her inventory and belongings to Grace Goddard.

Norma Jeane lives briefly with Harvey and Elsie Giffen, parents of her school friend. She is treated well.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns nine. Norma Jeane finishes es the third grade.

July: Grace brings Norma Jeane to live with her.

10 August: Grace McKee marries Doc Goddard in Las Vegas.

September: Norma Jeane begins fourth grade.

13 September: Due to an obligatory stay in an orphanage before Grace could be Norma Jeane’s guardian, she arrives at the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society. Marilyn later stated

5 December: After a visit from Ida Bolender which upsets Norma Jeane, Grace writes to the orphanage asking that no one visit the orphanage.

Gladys escapes from Norwalk State Hospital but is found and returned.

25 December: RKO studios invite the orphanage to visit the studio, eat ice cream and watch a movie.


1936

26 February: Grace files papers to become Norma Jeane’s legal guardian.

26 March: Grace is granted as Norma Jeane’s legal guardian.

Spring: Gladys is moved to Agnews State Hospital.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns ten.

21 June: Grace makes the last payment to the orphanage for Norma Jeane’s care.

September: Norma Jeane begins fifth grade at Vine Street School.


1937

20 February: On the Orphanage’s report for Norma Jeane it states: “Sometimes she seems anxious and then she begins to stutter. Norma Jean [sic] is also prone to coughing fits and frequent colds… if she’s not treated with much patience and constantly reassured, she is prey to panic attacks. I would recommend for her a strong and good family.”

26 February: Grace signs the documents to prepare for Norma Jeane’s release from the orphanage.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns eleven.

7 June: Norma Jeane leaves the orphanage and moves in with a now-married Grace Goddard. It is during this time Norma Jeane is drunkenly sexually assaulted by Grace’s husband Doc. Norma Jeane informs Grace.

September: Norma Jeane begins sixth grade at Lankershim School.

November: Grace places Norma Jeane in Marion (Gladys’s brother) and his wife Ida Martin. Marion disappears and is declared dead in 1939. Norma Jeane keeps asking where Uncle Marion is.

1938

March: Grace visits Norma Jeane at Ida Martin’s home. She discovers her mother has attempted to escape from the hospital and has been transported to Agnew State Asylum, an institution specialising in mental disorders, near San Francisco.

The attempted escape occurred due to a moment of confusion.

Gladys had received a telephone call from Edward Mortenson, her second husband. Gladys had believed he was dead since 1929. This is because a man with the same name had died in a motorcycle accident in Ohio. Because of this, Gladys tried to leave the Norwalk hospital to join her husband.

Norma Jeane moves into the home of Ruth and Alan Mills, friends of Grace.

June: Norma Jeane moves to Grace’s brother’s home. The Atchinsons (Bryan and Lottie) aren’t particularly interested in her. She finishes sixth grade.

Norma Jeane is sexually assaulted by her cousin Jack Martin, according to Norman Rosten and others.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns twelve. Grace treats her to a new dress, makeup and hairstyling. She has a professional photo taken.

August: Ida Martin receives her final payment for caring after Norma Jeane.

August/September: Grace Goddard takes Norma Jeane to live with her Aunt Ana Lower who believed in Christian Science and raised Norma Jeane to do so too. This later causes many issues for her as her periods caused terrible pain. Christian Science doesn’t believe in pain relief or medical care. Later it is discovered Norma Jeane/Marilyn Monroe has endometriosis. 

Norma Jeane starts the seventh grade at Sawtelle Boulevard School.

October: Norma Jeane discovers she has a sister, Berniece. 


1939

June: Grace takes Norma Jeane to visit Gladys in San Francisco where she is currently hospitalised. 

Norma Jeane finishes seventh grade at Sawtelle Boulevard School.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns thirteen.

September: Norma Jeane starts eighth grade at Emerson Junior High School.

End of 1939: Ana Lower suffers from cardiovascular issues. 


1940s

1940

February: Ana’s health begins deteriorating quickly.

June: Norma Jeane begins socialising and starts dating Chuck Moran.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns fourteen.

December: Due to Ana’s poor health, Norma Jeane returns to the Goddards.

1941

1 June: Norma Jeane turns fifteen.

27 June: Norma Jeane graduates from Emerson Junior High, completing the ninth grade.

September: Norma Jeane starts Van Nuys High School.

October:  Norma Jeane meets James Dougherty (Jim) who lives in the home opposite the Goddards. He takes Bebe Goddard and Norma Jeane to school.  

December: Doc is offered a job in Virginia but won’t take Norma Jeane so she suggests she marry Jim Dougherty. In order to stay out of the orphanage both Norma Jeane and Jim agre.


1942

February: The Goddards prepare to move to West Virginia but are unable to take Norma Jeane, so she was required to either go back to the orphanage or get married. 

19th June: Norma Jeane and Jim get married to avoid Norma Jeane having to return to the orphanage. Ana Lower made her wedding gown for the event but no family attended the ceremony which took place in a friend of Grace’s home. The Bolenders however did attend. 

The wedding party had a small reception at Florentine Gardens. 

There was no honeymoon, however, they did visit Sherwood Lake. 


1943

January: The lease runs out on Dougherty’s apartment, so they move in with Jim’s parents. 

Jim is enlisted in the Selective Service for the military. During this period, Norma Jeane went to live in North Hollywood with Jim’s parents.

September: Jim was allowed to have Norma Jeane live with him at the HQ of the Merchant Marines at Catalina Island.  

December: Tensions between the couple begin due to Jim’s jealousy as Norma Jeane becomes widely admired by other men. 


1944

Spring: Norma Jeane leaves Catalina and lives with her mother-in-law, Ethel, in North Hollywood.  She soon became bored being at home alone whilst Ethel worked at the Radio Plane. She eventually asked Ethel to get her a job there.

April: Norma Jeane starts at the Radio Plane. Originally, she started varnishing the plane’s fuselage. 

Autumn 1944:  Norma Jeane visits Grace Goddard, Bebe Goddard and meets her half-sister Berniece for the first time. 

October: Norma Jeane returns to the Radio Plane but is given the new role of folding and checking parachutes. 

The day she returned to work; Corporal David Conover was asked to photograph women at work. These images were for the army to show women’s support for the war effort and to boost morale. Norma Jeane was photographed by Conover whilst at work as well as other photo sessions. She writes to Grace Goddard about this. 


1945

January 1945: Norma Jeane quits her job Radio Plane.

10th February: Norma Jeane sells her baby grand piano to Ana Lower. 

Spring: Norma Jeane begins modelling for more photographers including Conover. Conover was impressed by her attention to detail with posing, lighting and film quality. 

2nd August: Norma Jeane signs a contract with Blue Book Modelling Agency and leaves the Radio Plane Munitions Factory. She takes lessons in beauty and makeup, fashion and etiquette. 

September: Norma Jeane is hired instantly with campaigns for companies such as Holga Steel Company, Montgomery Ward, the Hollywood Fashion show and Douglas luxury airlines (released in 1946).

November: Blue Book Modelling Agency suggests Norma Jeane as a model for Andre De Dienes in which they had many sittings for the remainder of the year and during much of her career. 

Gladys is also released from the hospital and lives with her aunt.  Grace arranges a meeting between Norma Jeane and her estranged mother. 

When returning home from a photoshoot from De Dienes, Jim asks Norma Jeane to choose between her career or married life with him. She chooses the former and moves in with Ana Lower.


1946

January: Norma Jeane completes more modelling assignments and starts lightening her hair. 

Norma Jeane went to photographer Raphael Wolff who agreed to take her for an advert for shampoo, on the condition that she bleached her hair. She went to Frank & Joseph hair salon where her hair is coloured by Sylvia Barnhart. She was photographed for the salon’s publicity pictures.

February: Norma Jeane poses for pin-up illustrator Earl Moran as well as other photographers. She also starts discussing the possibilities of becoming an actress with Emmeline Snively. 

10th March: Norma Jeane has her first photo session with Joseph Jasgur.

11th March: Norma Jeane signs a contract with National Concerts Artists Corporation. Harry Lipton becomes her agent, and he advises her to divorce Jim. 

25th April: Norma Jeane has a photo session with Paul Parry. 

14th May: Norma Jeane moves to Las Vegas to obtain a divorce from Jim. It was in Vegas she would meet Bill Pursel who she dated temporarily.

5th July: Norma Jeane gives Jim the divorce papers and tries to compromise saying they could still see each other. He disagrees. 

17th July: Norma Jeane gets an appointment to meet with Ben Lyon, Fox’s studio executive. 

19th July: Norma Jeane is taken to the set of Betty Grable’s new film, Mother Wore Tights for a screen test. 

She is introduced to filmmaker Leon Shamroy, make-up artist Allan “Whitey” Snyder (who later became her personal make-up artist), director Walter Lang and head of wardrobe, Charles LeMaire as well as head of production Darryl F. Zanuck. 

Norma Jeane also does her first screen test.

August: Ben Lyon suggests Norma Jeane have a pseudonym. It was decided Marilyn Monroe would be her new name. This combined the actress Marilyn Miller’s first name and her mother’s maiden name, Monroe.

26th August: Marilyn signs a contract with Fox accompanied by Grace (as Marilyn wasn’t 21 years old yet).

5th September: Marilyn’s name is published for the first time under Variety magazine’s New Contracts section. 

13th September: Marilyn and James Dougherty officially divorce. Marilyn obtained Jim’s car a Ford coupe. She never spoke or met Jim again. 

Fall: Marilyn makes her first radio appearance with KFI radio alongside other promising starlets. She was also filmed by Leo Caloia at the Ambassador Hotel. 


1947

February: Fox lengthens her contract from 6 months. She is given her first part in a movie called Scudda Hoo, Scudda Hay! which is released in April 1947.

30th June: Marilyn starts shooting The Dangerous Years which lasts a week, it’s released on 7th December 1947.

20th July: Marilyn attends the annual golf tournament of the 20th Century Fox, at the California Country Club.

26th July: Marilyn is informed her contract with Fox will not be renewed. 

4th December: Marilyn signs a contract with John Carroll, which promised to pay her $100, and 10% on Marilyn’s takings as an actress to her agent, Harry Lipton. Carroll represented her as her manager from December 1st 1947 to February 29, 1948.

7th December: The Dangerous Years is released.


1948

9th March: Marilyn is hired by Columbia for 6 months. The studio houses her at the Bel Air Hotel. 

10th March: Marilyn meets Natasha Lytess, who would become her acting coach and confidante. She is photographed with Natasha in 1949 for Life Magazine.

18th March: Grace notifies Marilyn that Aunt Ana passed away from cardiac arrest.

14th April: Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! is released but Marilyn’s scenes are cut from the movie. 

22nd April: Filming begins for Ladies of the Chorus

August: Marilyn’s contract with Columbia expires and no renewal is offered.

9th September: Marilyn films her last scenes for Ladies of the Chorus

22nd October: Ladies of the Chorus is released. 

31st December: Marilyn Monroe is introduced to Johnny Hyde, one of the heads of the William Morris Agency at a New Year’s Eve party held by producer Sam Spiegel.


1949

Marilyn films Love Happy, Ticket to Tomahawk and Asphalt Jungle.

February: Natasha Lytess and Marilyn have a photo session with J.R Eyerman. 

March: William Morris Agency begins representing Marilyn. 

April: Marilyn is photographed by Philippe Halsman for the first time, for LIFE magazine. 

25 – 28 April: Marilyn attends the 4th Pacific Coast Antiques Show at the Los Angeles Pan-Pacific Auditorium.

Spring: Johnny Hyde leaves his wife and children and has Marilyn move in with him in Beverly Hills at North Palm Drive. She pays to rent a room at the Beverly Carlton to avoid gossip and paid her own expenses using money from Love Happy.   

May: Johnny Hyde arranges for Marilyn to have a chin implant put in. In later years it is also suggested that Marilyn may have had a cartilage bump removed although there is no paperwork that confirms this.

28th May: Marilyn has her nude photoshoot with Tom Kelley (under the condition that his wife, Natalie, was present and no staff were there) under the name Mona Monroe. Kelley sold the copyright to the Baumgarth company for $500. Marilyn received $50 for the session which lasted two hours.

July: Marilyn attends several events and photoshoots in Milwaukee and New York including a shoot at Tobay Beach with Andre De Dienes.

5thAugust: Marilyn completes costume tests for Ticket to Tomahawk.

22nd  August: Marilyn shoots Ticket to Tomahawk.

10th October: Marilyn’s photos with Philippe Halsman for Life magazine is released.