Blonde Bombshells and “Damaged Goods”

Marilyn Monroe and her mother, maternal grandmother, and maternal great-grandmother

Direct Maternal Lineage of Marilyn Monroe


Legendary film star Marilyn Monroe was born in 1926 to a mother who was first married aged only 14.

We can only speculate what role, if any, this child marriage played in the later mental health issues which would plague Gladys Pearl Monroe.

Gladys was actually born in Mexico to railway worker Otis Monroe and his wife Della Mae Hogan, with the family moving to California around the year 1900.

Her marriage at 14 to Jasper Baker was “stormy”, with many later accounts accusing Baker of extreme domestic violence. Gladys appears to have already been pregnant at the time of her first marriage, giving birth to their first child, a son named Robert Baker, at the tender age of 15.

Gladys Monroe managed to extricate herself from this marriage at the age of 20, already a mother of two children, but her children were taken away by Jasper Baker.

Gladys Monroe married again in Los Angeles at the age of 22, this time to a man called Martin Mortenson.

The exact hows and whys are unclear, but this marriage also broke down, and Gladys became pregnant by a work colleague (and married man) named Charles Gifford in 1926.

The child of this tryst, Norma Jeane, took the surname of her mother’s still legal husband, and was officially born as “Norma Jeane Mortenson” on paper.

Norma Jeane had what can only be called a desperate and difficult childhood, with “home” a constant rotation between intermittent spells with her birth mother, and time spent with foster parents, work colleagues of her erratic mother, and in orphanages.

Norma Jeane’s mother would spend her first spell in an asylum for the insane when Norma Jeane was only nine years old, after suffering what was then called “a nervous breakdown”. Gladys Monroe would later be diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia…

Norma Jeane would take various quasi-paternal surnames before settling on her mother’s maiden name – the name by which she would become famous.

While guessing ethnicity from photos is a fool’s game of phenotype analysis, I am still posting this series of photos because I have some familiarity with the Hogan and Nance families behind Marilyn Monroe’s mother, and her mother before her.  They are my own distant relations (Norma Jeane is an 8th cousin).  Lest this seem like a wish for fame by association, I will point out that Charles Manson is a closer 7th cousin…

Both the Nance and Hogan families of Marilyn Monroe‘s maternal lineage are multi-ethnic, “Old Mix American” people, and it is hard to ignore the possibility that the tragic lives of Norma Jeane and her mother were the product of trans-generational trauma caused at least in some part by the low status of multi-ethnic women in American history.

This hypothesis pales to insignificance when we admire the sheer charisma and comic genius this oft-times lost little girl managed to give the world.


#BeforeWeWereWhite #history #MarilynMonroe #genealogy

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