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1920s

1926

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

On her birth certificate, she is identified as the daughter of Gladys Monroe (her maiden name). She uses the surname of Martin Edward Mortenson for her daughter, her second husband, whom she divorced in 1928. In 2022 DNA testing would prove Norma Jeane’s biological father is Stanley Gifford.

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.

Ida and Albert Bolender, foster parents

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

Norma Jeane, 6 months old

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.


1928

Gladys and Edward Mortenson (Gladys’s second husband) officially divorce after two years of seperation.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns two.

Norma Jeane, two years old

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.


1931

1 June: Norma Jeane turns five.

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


1932

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.”

1 June: Norma Jeane turns six.

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

September: Norma Jeane attends the Vine Street School.

1933

March: Her teacher, Evelyn Gawthorp describes her as a “timid child who loved to sing.”

Spring: Norma Jeane has 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.

16 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.

Ana Lower (behind)with Norma Jeane

December: A report is written by Los Angeles General Hospital describes Gladys’s 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 to the Norwalk State Hospital, and 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 to Nellie Atkinson (George and Maude’s daughter) for Norma Jeane’s care. The Giffen’s who Marilyn was staying with welcomed Norma Jeane into their home.

Spring: Grace meets Erwin “Doc” Goddard.

Grace and Doc

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 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. 

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. This is believed to be when Grace starts drinking heavily.

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 for 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.


1942

February: The Goddards prepare to move to Huntington, West Virginia but are unable to take Norma Jeane, so she was required to either go back to the orphanage or get married. Norma Jeane is offered two choices. Go back to the orphanage or marry James Dougherty (Jim). She later said, “In the state of California a girl can get married at sixteen. So I had a choice: go to a home till I was eighteen or get married. And so I got married.” Before the marriage takes place Norma Jeane moves back in with Aunt Ana who is currently suffering from health issues.

March: The Goddards leave California and move to West Virginia. Jim’s mother, Ethel, approaches Jim and discusses the agreement to marry Norma Jeane. He thought it over and agreed. The couple made an effort to date and spend time together. He takes her shopping for an engagement ring.

May: Marilyn drops out of University High School, something she always regretted.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns sixteen.

7 June: Norma Jeane and Jim look for a place to rent and find a one-room bungalow at 4524 Vista Del Monte in Sherman Oaks. They sign a six-month lease.

19 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 (432 South Bentley Avenue). The Bolenders however did attend. After the ceremony, they have a small wedding reception at Florentine Gardens.

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

14 September: Norma Jeane writes to Grace Goddard which implies Grace had informed her of her real father’s identity (Stanley Gifford). It was sold in 2011 for $52,460.


1943

January: The lease runs out on Dougherty’s apartment, so they move into Jim’s parent’s old home.

Spring: The Dougherty’s move to 14223 Bessemer Street.

Jim enlists in the Selective Service for the military without first informing his wife. During this period, Norma Jeane lives in North Hollywood with Jim’s parents.

Norma Jeane with Ethel

1 June: Norma Jeane turns seventeen.

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

Norma Jeane and ames Dougherty (in Avalon, Santa Catalina Island, circa 1943.

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.

15 April: Norma Jeane starts at the Radioplane for 70 cents per hour inspecting parachutes.

22 May: Norma Jeane begins working in the paint department.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns eighteen.

Late 1944: Norma Jeane meets her sister Berniece for the first time in Detroit, they visit Canada. Before returning to Los Angeles she visits Grace Goddard in Chicago.

Berniece and Norma Jeane

December: Jim spends the holidays with Norma Jeane.


1945

10 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. 

1 June: Norma Jeane turns nineteen.

4 June: Norma Jeane writes to Grace. She discusses that shortly after she returned to work (she hadn’t been there since January), Corporal David Conover was asked to photograph women employed assisting in the war effort. 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. 

2 August: Norma Jeane is taken by Potter Heuth to meet Emmeline Snively of Blue Book Modelling Agency which was situated at the Ambassador Hotel. She signs a contract after being interviewed 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). Ethel, her mother-in-law criticises Norma Jeane and her new career. Norma Jeane leaves Ethel and lives with Aunt Ana once more at 1138 Nebraska Avenue.

2 September: Norma Jeane and other models have test shots done at the Ambassador Hotel.

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. 

December: Norma Jeane spends a month in Death Valley, Mojave Desert and Yosemite with De Dienes. During the trip, his photography equipment was stolen. Norma Jeane also met with her mother who had been released from the asylum and was now living with Dora Graham (Gladys’s aunt). The road trip had been somewhat of a disaster, leaving Norma Jeane incredibly upset. Before Jim left home again to return to the Merchant Marines he gave Norma Jeane the ultimatum of modelling or being his wife.


1946

January: Norma Jeane ask photographer Raphael Wolff to photograph her for a shampoo advertisement He agrees, on the condition that bleaches her hair. This advice had already been given to her on several occasions. She went to Frank & Joseph hair salon where her hair is coloured by Sylvia Barnhart. She was photographed for the salon’s publicity pictures.

12 June 1946

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

March: Norma Jeane sends money to Gladys so she can come to Los Angeles and live with her and Jim (which Jim is not informed of).

10 March: Norma Jeane has her first photo session with Joseph Jasgur at North Poinsetta Place.

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

16 March: Jim returns home and finds Gladys. Due to the small apartment, he stays with Ethel.

April: Norma Jeane takes part in a fashion show at the Ambassador Hotel.

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

14 May: Norma Jeane moves to Las Vegas to obtain a divorce from Jim. It is in Vegas she would meet Bill Pursel, who she dates briefly.

1 June: Norma Jeane turns twenty.

1 July: Norma Jeane telegrams Emmeline Snively informing her she has the measles.

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

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

19 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. From now I will refer to Norma Jeane as Marilyn Monroe.

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

5 September: Marilyn’s name is published for the first time under Variety magazine’s New Contracts section (as Norma Jeane)

13 September: Marilyn and James Dougherty officially divorce. Marilyn obtains Jim’s car Ford coupe. She never speaks or meets with Jim again.

Summer/Fall: Marilyn models for Group 13, a group of inspiring amateur photographers.

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

30 January: Marilyn is advertised as a babysitter who was recently signed by the studio.

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 March 1948. Her one line is “Hi” which is cut from the film.

End of March: Marilyn is photographed advertising the Pacific Coast Antique Show with a cat.

15 April: Marilyn is one of 17 starlets to win a success award.

1 June: Marilyn turns twenty-one.

30 June: Marilyn starts shooting The Dangerous Years which lasts a week.

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

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

4 December: Marilyn signs a contract with John Carroll. Carroll represented her as her manager from December 1st 1947 to February 29, 1948.

7 December: The Dangerous Years is released.


1948

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

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

11 March: Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! is released but Marilyn’s scenes are cut from the movie. 

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

22 April: Filming begins for Ladies of the Chorus

26 May: Marilyn attends the premiere of The Emperor’s Waltz with Mickey Rooney at the Paramount Hollywood Theatre.

1 June: Marilyn turns twenty-two.

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

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

22 October: Ladies of the Chorus is released. 

31 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 her scene in Love Happy.

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.

27 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.

1 June: Marilyn turns twenty-three.

July: Marilyn attends several promotional events for Love Happy in Milwaukee and New York. She has a photoshoot Tobay Beach with Andre De Dienes.

5 August: Marilyn does costume tests for Ticket to Tomohawk.

22 August: Marilyn films Ticket to Tomahawk.

1 October: Marilyn’s photos with Philippe Halsman for LIFE magazine are released. 

31 December: Marilyn spends new Year’s Eve with Johnny Hyde at the Racquet Club in Palm Springs.